On Friday, July 23, 2021 – one week from today – the public comment period will close on the proposed Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) for the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District. DFCs represent goals for preserving a percentage of groundwater for future generations and preventing subsidence. A contentious debate has raged for years between those who profit from the pumping of cheap groundwater and those whose property will be damaged by the subsidence it causes.
Subsidence Caused by Excessive Groundwater Pumping
Subsidence is a sinking of property relative to others around it. Unlimited pumping removes the water under homes and businesses that helps to prop them up. When the water is removed, it can create a bowl in the landscape and contribute to flooding.
The Woodlands has already experienced this, where a “graben” is developing between two fault lines. Graben is a geologic term meaning “a block of the earth’s crust between two faults displaced downward relative to the blocks on either side.” Such displacement can damage streets, bridges, pipelines, driveways, foundations and homes.
Modeling has shown that subsidence could cause more than 3.5 feet of sinking in southern and eastern Montgomery County, growing population centers where groundwater pumping is greatest. Subsidence is already a serious concern in The Woodlands where it has triggered faults.
Conflict Between GMA-14 and Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District
Years ago, Texas established Groundwater Management areas to bind the people of a region together, and ensure that public interests outweigh the self-interest of a few powerful people. GMA-14 covers most of southeast Texas. It includes five groundwater conservation districts, comprising 20 counties.
GMA-14’s Proposed DFCs
GMA-14 has debated its next set of desired future conditions (DFCs) since 2016. At its last meeting, members finally adopted the following statement.
In each county in GMA 14, no less than 70 percent median available drawdown remaining in 2080 and no more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080.GMA-14 Desired Future Conditions
Let’s break that down:
- The numbers represent averages or medians within each county.
- “70% median available drawdown remaining in 2080” means counties cannot draw down their aquifer(s) more than 30%. Seventy percent must remain at the end of the period – 2080. Each district controls this by monitoring aquifer levels and adjusting annual well permits to meet the goal.
- “No more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080” means “county-wide.”
Understand that some areas have already experienced significant subsidence in the last decade. For instance, before moving to more surface water, the Woodlands was sinking about 2 centimeters per year. That’s more than three quarters of an inch per year, 7.8 inches in ten years, or almost 2 feet during the life of a 30 year mortgage.
Subsidence: a Check against Excessive Drawdown
The subsidence metric ensures that groundwater pumpers won’t deplete aquifers, then magically claim they will recharge in the last year of the monitoring period. It protects both groundwater levels and homes.
Simon Sequeira, owner of a large for-profit groundwater pumping utility in Montgomery County, has fought the inclusion of a subsidence metric in the DFCs for years. This four-page letter to GMA-14 spells out his reasons why a subsidence metric should NOT be included in DFCs. In it, he first claims that drawdown will become an issue before subsidence becomes evident. He then threatens to sue everyone in sight if a subsidence metric IS included. Duh!
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” said Shakespeare in Hamlet – a phrase used in everyday speech to indicate doubt regarding the truth of an overly strong denial.
The simple fact is this. Subsidence was already happening with pumping rates lower than the DFCs proposed. When MoCo started using more surface water, the subsidence leveled off. But get ready for more if Sue-Happy Simon gets his way.
Learn More and Protect Your Property Rights
To learn more about subsidence, check out:
Please consider emailing the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District before July 23rd. Demand that they adopt the subsidence metric proposed by GMA-14 and a sustainable pumping rate.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/16/2021
1417 Days after Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.