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BCRAGD begins review of water well permits

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

During their regularly scheduled quarterly meeting held Thursday, Jan. 5, the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) board of directors issued a directive to "the general manager to conduct a complete review of all existing water well permits in the county to insure compliance with District and State rules."

Long encouraged by Director Lee Kneupper, the review will set annual production limits in acre-feet to all existing well permits lacking an annual pumping amount.

The BCRAGD has the responsibility to register or permit all water wells in Bandera County. While that is relatively easy to do with any new wells that are drilled, the district is also dealing with wells that were drilled prior to the institution of rules by the BCRAGD.

A household well, or a well used to provide water for livestock and that produces less that 25,000 gallons per day is classified as an exempt well and needs only to be registered, not permitted. Water wells subject to the rules and regulations of the Texas Railroad Commission are also exempt.

Wells that require permits produce more that 25,000 gallons per day. Any well providing groundwater as of Feb. 24, 2010 to ponds, lakes, tanks and reservoirs or other surface impoundments needs a permit unless it provides water for livestock or domestic use. BCRAGD rules limit the size and construction of such exempt impoundments.

If a well is a community public water supply well, or a retail public utility well, a permit is required.

According to the background issued with the BCRAGD directive, "most of the permits issued by the district prior to Feb. 24, 2010 do not have an annual pumping amount authorized.

These permits have an instantaneous rate assigned to them, not an annual pumping amount."

The background statement goes on to say, "many of the instantaneous rates assigned to existing permits are not feasible. These wells are not capable of producing groundwater at that instantaneous rate."

During the review of existing permits, the general manager has been instructed by the board to clarify changes in ownership and any other changes in usage.

All permits re-issued, reviewed or adjusted under the general manager's review must comply with District Rule 3.4N which requires that all permits state the annual production amount in acre-feet, state the instantaneous production rate in gallons per minute, include the expiration date of the permit, state the purpose of the permitted well and require the permittee to report immediately to the district any imposition of drought management measures.

Newly appointed BCRAGD General Manager David Mauk implied that the review will largely be a clean-up of paperwork and updating of records. "We'll use the rules to assign an [acre foot] amount. I don't anticipate that we will be taking anything away from anyone."

When asked what kind of timetable he was projecting, Mauk replied, "It's 85 permits. I'll give an update [to the board] at each meeting." Mauk said that if he finds any permits that don't comply with the district's rules, he will bring that information to the board.

In an interview, Mauk said he expected the review of the existing permits to be a long, slow process. "We'll have to convince people why they need to install meters on their wells to monitor their usage," he said.