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BCRAGD: 2015 rains raise aquifers

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

It's sort of good news. After a record wet year in 2015, the aquifers underlying Bandera County are showing a rise in levels. That was the good news delivered by David Mauk, general manager of the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District at its quarterly board meeting. The board met Thursday morning, Jan. 14.
The district's monitor wells show rises of water levels in the Middle and Lower Trinity Aquifers from which most of us get our water. The Edwards Aquifer that sits beneath the northwest corner of the county has also risen.
The bad news is that none of the aquifers have yet recovered to levels held in years prior to the five-year drought preceding 2015, Mauk said. That prolonged water shortage severely affected every local aquifer, with many wells going dry.
Forecasters are already predicting the turning of a favorable El Niño in the Pacific, often a harbinger of rain for Texas, to a dryer La Niña in 2016-17. That could mean that our aquifers will remain below historical levels for some time.
In other words, residents need to continue to conserve water and treat it as the precious resource it is. As a new item in the river authority's educational arsenal, the district is now offering water conservation information and tips on handy jump drives that taxpayers can check out from the district's offices at 440 FM 3240.
In the general manager's report to the board, he announced that 19 wells have been registered for the first quarter (October, November, December) of fiscal year 2016. Two wells were permitted and one variance request was granted.
The district received five nuisance requests that were investigated. No notices of violation were issued. One of the nuisances was a dam built to block stream flow by a TxDOT contractor working near Wallace Creek north of Medina. "We worked with TCEQ to mitigate any damaging effects," Mauk said.
The district continues to work on cleaning up a 30-year-old dumpsite on Simmons Road in Lakehills. "It's going to take awhile," Mauk said. "We found an old car buried five feet deep." Water seeping through the dump makes its way into Medina Lake.
When board member Karen Ripley asked why the county, which now owns the lot, is not helping with the clean up, Mauk said, "I'm in the lead, follow or get out of the way mode on this situation."
The district continued its well logging program during the quarter. It shares the logging equipment with other districts to help keep expenses as low as possible.
No abandoned wells were plugged during the first quarter. According to Texas law, "the landowner is responsible for plugging abandoned water wells and is liable for any water contamination or injury that results from an unplugged well," AgriLife Extension Service reports. BCRAGD staff can assist landowners with the process of plugging a well.
Abandoned wells can be treated in three ways: 1) by returning the well to an operable state, 2) by capping the well according to state law standards, or 3) by plugging it from the bottom to the top with bentonite, bentonite grout or cement. There are required forms and reports that need to be completed and filed.
Mauk also reported on the multitude of educational programs his staff participated in, training sessions completed and meetings, seminars and conferences attended.
With the news from 198th District Court last week that Judge Rex Emerson had ruled that BMA WCID #1 has no jurisdiction over surface or groundwater rules and regulations in Bandera County (See Bandera County Courier Jan. 14 issue), Mauk said BCRAGD will expand its efforts to assure the water quality of Medina Lake.
The lake is currently at 63 percent of capacity. The district will continue water quality monitoring and pollution surveillance. It plans to look at the possibility of beneficial aquatic plant reintroduction and the insertion of selective brush piles. Monthly fishing updates and tips will be posted on the district's website. "We want to try to get the lake back to the 1940s," said Mauk.