Laura Norton, Guest Editorialist to The Golden Hammer
Our Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board, the board that was elected in 2018 to “restore aﬀordable water”, has suggested that The Woodlands go to 100% surface water. But there’s a big problem with that.” It costs more to treat surface water and deliver it, way more than groundwater – 3 times as much.
Our rates for water in The Woodlands today are a blend of the groundwater rates and surface water rates. This enables SJRA to use the margin on groundwater pumping to make the debt service on the $500 million dollar surface water treatment plant (SWTP). The SJRA exists for our beneﬁt, destroying them as many seek to do is at your own risk. But asking The Woodlands residents, and them only, to bear the cost of the plant would send our water bills soaring.
If you’re outside the reach of the plant’s pipes and completely reliant on well water, wipe that smile oﬀ your face, the situation won’t be good for you either.“
In addition, the construction of the SWTP in 2015 allowed our county to continue extraordinary economic development and meet its water
demand. Without the plant we’d all be on 100% groundwater. 100% groundwater led to rapidly lowering water tables, this lead to expensive re-tooling of wells; it was clear our trajectory wasn’t sustainable.“
Since the completion of the SWTP, the drops in our water tables leveled oﬀ and we saw another great beneﬁt: our surface elevation drops or subsidence also dramatically slowed. Data from CORS (continuously operating reference stations) and PAM (port-a-measure) sites show a clear correlation between our groundwater withdrawals and surface level elevation drops. Encouragingly, the data also showed we had control of it by blending surface and groundwater use.”
To summarize, subsidence is particularly concerning for many reasons: “
• It’s irreversible“
• Given NOAA Atlas 14 rainfall data we know we get 30% more intense rains than we did from the TD 40 data set of some 50 years ago.“
• Lowering surface elevations and more rain are not a good mix.“
• Subsidence leads to fault activation. Woodlands residents have read about our Township Chairman’s woes with ground fault activation and our Fire Station #5 is in disrepair because of ground faults. At least 3 CISD schools sit on or near ground faults; these are things taxpayers will have to ﬁx if we’re lucky enough not have our own home on a fault to worry about too.“
• And subsidence leads to reduced capacity for aquifer storage.” At a minimum, what we can do for ourselves is at least ask the LSGCD board to include subsidence and measuring it in the metrics they develop for their so called DFCs or (Desired Future Conditions).
The board’s next meeting is Tuesday evening at 6pm.“
I understand the enthusiasm of the political right to ﬁght regulation at every turn but in this instance, if you live in Montgomery County, especially southeast county, the projected subsidence rates for us in the Houston Area Groundwater Modeling are a foot a decade.
At least take this article then as a public service announcement – buy your ﬂood insurance now, perhaps before you buy your whole home generator (which should be elevated if you’re near a creek).“
Laura Norton is an elected member of MUD 47 in The Woodlands and appointee to the Woodlands Water Trustee Board and the Woodlands Township’s One Water Task Force.