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The Groundwater Myth continues

By Paul Siemers, III  -- Scientist/Engineer, former HGCD board member

Posted 10/28/05

    The Groundwater Myth continues, aided and abetted by the Kerrville Daily Times -- in Stewards of the Water, October 1-2 KDT, featuring "stream measurements" being taken by Headwaters President Mary Ellen Summerlin. (Article is printed below - editor)

     Who is it that says, “Over and over again…that the people who regulate water consumption in Kerr County don’t have the right information to make their decision. The only way to make the stronger regulations is to base the decision on accurate data?” Does it continue to be those people I defined in a previous column earlier this year? Those being:

  1. “the uninformed, those who have not made themselves aware of, choose to ignore, or choose not to understand the body of knowledge that exists and chant the “more science” mantra based on a lack of knowledge,
  2. the I don’t wants, those who chant the “more science” mantra to forestall any and all water management/regulation,
  3. the profit takers, those who will benefit from the acquisition of more “science” or who will benefit as a result of delays in production allocation changes and chant the ”more science” mantra based on profit motives, and
  4. the combinations of any or all of the above.”

    After the introductory lead-in, the article continues by glorifying the acquisition of “data” using very inaccurate methodologies. Sticking a rod in the river once a month does not produce an accurate data base on which to base any well production decisions -- there are just too many variables involved in the dynamics of the river and human error. The value of this activity is further compromised due to the fact that a correlation between environmental conditions and river flows, and the need to limit groundwater production, was established many years ago and incorporated into Headwaters rules, specifically the Drought Management Plan.

    I suppose, however, that the HGCD Directors could be commended for their willingness to get their feet wet in support of the cause. The problem is I am not sure what the cause is, because it is certainly not the collection of accurate data. The doing might provide a feel-good for the doer, but such data can not supplement, complement, or flesh out the years of accurate USGS data available. It might be more advantageous for the groundwater district to focus on groundwater rather than surface water. 

    The District’s and the unidentified nay sayers’ continued failure to accept and understand the years of available data, both historic and “scientific”, appears to be nothing more than an exercise in procrastination – avoidance of implementing the necessary restrictions, as implied in the article, to prevent the abuse of the Kerr County’s groundwater. WHY? How many years of “data” are required before there is enough?

    It concerns me that the directors making decisions at Headwaters are apparently so uninformed and na´ve about the resource they are charged to manage and conserve for the county’s future. And while Mr. Wilson, the District’s consulting geologist, has a knack for saying good-sounding words and the directors seem to be good at aping them, the implementation of the words adds to my concerns and leads me to question his agenda.

    If this article is representative of how the District is using its resources and spending tax dollars – even though the labor of collecting is volunteer, the data is not free -- the taxpayers deserve not just a very small roll back but a refund of the District’s reserve




From the Kerrville Daily Times, Oct. 1, 2005. This is the story on which Paul Siemers' article was based - Editor

Stewards of the water

By Gerard MacCrossan
The Daily Times

Published October 01, 2005

Over and over again it has been said that the people who regulate water consumption in Kerr County don’t have the right information to make their decisions. The only way to make the stronger regulations is to base the decision on accurate data.

That is why Headwaters Groundwater Conservation District President Mary Ellen Summerlin kicked off her sandals Tuesday morning and waded out to the middle of the South Fork of the Guadalupe River at Camp Mystic. Summerlin makes a trip to West Kerr County the last week of every month to collect stream flow data from there and from Wagon Wheel Crossing on the North Fork.

“We’re just fleshing out what the USGS (United States Geological Service) collects,” Summerlin said. The USGS monitors streamflow at five points along the Guadalupe River, all downstream of Summerlin’s two collection points.

“The stream flow ought to correlate with rainfall in the Edwards Plateau, which is an unconfined aquifer,” Summerlin said. “Our hope is by learning to correlate this, it will be an early warning.

“If we see the stream with a sharp decline, that would be a red flag for area wells,” she said. “If it is a long decline, it would guide us to limit pumping. Right now, we don’t feel we have enough science to regulate (the Edwards aquifer.)”

Geologist Feather Wilson, who is on contract to map Kerr County wells and develop a groundwater availability model for Headwaters, said the work being done by Summerlin and other volunteers is valuable on two counts. Summerlin contributes volunteer labor to the data collection, as well as learns first hand about the data on which Headwaters regulations are based.

“The next time somebody comes to me with a bunch of scientific data, I have a better idea how it's gathered,” Summerlin said. “It also makes you somewhat of a critical acceptor of data.”

According to Wilson, it is important for Headwaters to collect additional data about both confined and unconfined aquifers. Recharge in the Edwards aquifer occurs from rainfall, and that aquifer covers three-quarters of the county.

Edwards recharge doesn’t get past the Glen Rose aquifer, which acts as a barrier to the confined aquifers below.

In Kerr County, however, regulated wells are completed in what is known as the Middle and Lower Trinity aquifers. Wilson said he wants Headwaters to move away from the Trinity terms, because each of those spans several distinct geological formations: The Middle Trinity has the Lower Glen Rose, Hensel, Bexar, Cow Creek and Hammett aquifers; and the Lower Trinity has the Sligo and Hosston formations.

According to Wilson, hundreds of mainly small-producing wells are drilled in the Edward’s aquifer. A fear exists, however, that a water marketer would want to drill a well next to a spring.

“That’s something we’d want to prevent,” he said. He explained it could affect surface water availability, because it pulled the spring water out of the ground stopping it from feeding creeks and rivers downstream.

“The push is on to get the information on the Edwards to back up the regulations we are going to have,” Wilson said. “If there was a lot of development, and we started drilling with very close wells (in the Edwards), that would cause problems.”

The volunteer effort is found in other areas of Headwaters research, too, and Summerlin isn’t the only elected director involved. Pct. 4 Director John Elliott monitors streamflow, too. Monitoring also is being done on several private wells, including Director Jim Hayes’ residential well in Center Point.

Wilson said monitoring wells 5 and 6 will be drilled at the end of October. One will be on Goat Creek Road near the Gillespie County line and the other is planned for Kerr Wildlife Management Area in West Kerr County off Farm-to-Market 1340.

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