Groundwater: Who's watching East Texas' water supply?

John Stover, Groundwater Attorney with Zeleskey Law Firm
John Stover, Groundwater Attorney with Zeleskey Law Firm
David Alford, PWGCD General Manager
David Alford, PWGCD General Manager

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Good, clean water - where does it come from? If you live in East Texas, it's pumped out of underground aquifers. For years, control of it has deferred to the rule of capture in Texas.

"… every landowner has the right to put a well on their property and to produce as much water as they are physically capable of doing," said John Stover, groundwater attorney.

With few limitations to the rule, Stover says anyone can put a huge pump on a small piece of land - taking out tons of water.

"I can possibly pull water from my neighbors property," said Stover.

Population growth, increasing demands from industry, plus, oil and gas company's usage enhanced these concerns. Calls for more protection and regulation, led to the development of groundwater districts across the state.

"In order for property owners to protect themselves from other wells that may be drilled in the future - the district needs to know where your well is,"said Stover.

A decade ago, the Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District was formed.

"To conserve, protect our groundwater is our main function," said David Alford, General Manager of PGWCD.

The district regulates and manages groundwater in Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties. Alford says they map out wells across the area.

"Spacing is probably the biggest well that district rule that districts do as far not letting wells get too close to each other so they'll influence the other one," said Alford.

The future of East Texas' water lies in their hands.

"We're set with regulating the desired future conditions… a plan out to 2060 for what we want to see our aquifers looks like then," said Alford.

To make sure the good, clean water we have now, will still be there in 50 years, monitoring is necessary. That's why districts are trying to record where the wells are, and how much they're pumping.

"That information will allow the districts to have a better understanding of what's really going on in the aquifer," said Stover.

Accuracy depends on folks registering existing wells, since only new ones are required to. If the district doesn't know its there - you can't be protected from another well coming in that could use up all your water.

"The big boom in the oil and gas business right now there are a lot of fracking wells... going in. Lots," said Alford.

The problem is some East Texans don't like the idea of it.

"Go tell your government that you have a well out there - people are always suspicious of that," said Stover.

"Everybody is scared of more bureaucracy. I means I've got a farm, I'm in the same boat as everybody else. Nobody wants more regulation than we have to,"said Alford.

However, Stover says the ends justify the means.

"We are very, very fortunate to have plenty of water. In order, for it to be available for the future we've got to manage it. We have to make sure somebody doesn't come in and suck it dry," said Stover.

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