Bastrop County is where the Colorado River intersects with the Carrizo-Wilcox major aquifer and a host of minor aquifers. This intersection in Bastrop County is under the jurisdiction of several water planning groups including Groundwater Management Area 12 and the Lower Colorado Regional Water Planning Group (Region K). Pursuant to a legislative mandate the Groundwater Conservation Districts in the region have been working to set the desired future conditions for the aquifers under their jurisdiction. Likewise, Region K is revising its regional water plan which will be incorporated into the Texas State Water Plan. See below for historic documents.
Environmental Stewardship’s Executive Director participates in the public meetings of the various groups involved in these planning processes. Where appropriate, Environmental Stewardship makes public comment and provides written letters for the public record regarding our concerns. Working through Opportunity Bastrop County’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Environmental Stewardship helped develop a vision for the region to serve as a foundation for public policy advocacy. The citizens’ vision “to welcome development, improve mobility, and increase health standards as we preserve and protect our historic culture and natural resources,” is detailed in a 45 page document adopted by the Bastrop County Commissioners’ Court December 10, 2007.
Bastrop’s environmental vision was confirmed in The Central Texas Greenprint for Growth, Conservation & Economic Opportunity for Bastrop County in 2009. An independent stakeholder group of county citizens established goals to protect water quality and quantity, conserve farm and ranch lands, protect sensitive ecological areas, enhance park and recreation opportunities, protect scenic corridors, and protect cultural/historic resources.
Groundwater – Surface Water Initiative
The focus of Environmental Stewardship’s concerns has been the interaction between the Colorado River and the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer group. Several years ago the Lower Colorado Regional Planning Group predicted that the anticipated pumping of groundwater in Bastrop and Lee counties would have a negative impact on the river. They predict that the river will go from being a “gaining river” to being a “losing river” when it no longer receives water from the aquifers. As the work of the groundwater conservation districts in our region have progressed this concern has been raised by Environmental Stewardship along with the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Unfortunately these concerns have been, for the most part, dismissed for various reasons.
Decisions will be made over the next year that will have long-range consequences that are not easily reversed. Data recently released covering 1980 –1999 indicate that pumping increased 31% during the period while the flow of water from the aquifers to rivers and streams decreased 50%. This is a significant change in the relationship between groundwater and surface water. The anticipated impact on the Colorado River is likely a predictor of a significant change in the ecological relationships as over-pumping accelerates in the region over the next 20-50 years.
Environmental Flows for the Colorado River and Matagorda Bay
Environmental flows for the Colorado River and Matagorda Bay will likely be impacted by this shift in hydrology and ecology. Fortunately a Colorado Lavaca Basin and Bay Area Stakeholder Committee has been appointed by the legislature. We are very fortunate to have Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the River Systems Institute and Myron Hess of the National Wildlife Federation serving as the environmental stakeholders representing our interests. As our concerns regarding the groundwater – surface water relationship continue to reveal the potential impact on the Colorado River, this group will be kept informed and will likely take an interest in the implications.
Having followed the Environmental Flows legislative process since 2006, Environmental Stewardship is committed to helping Andy and Myron as they represent our concerns to this committee. Executive Director Steve Box is Mr. Sansom’s alternate to the committee. See below for historic documents.
Bastrop County Watershed Protection Initiative
Environmental Stewardship has initiated a Watershed Protection Initiative to bring these planning activities into focus for Bastrop and surrounding counties. The goal of this initiative is to advocate for a watershed protection plan to help our counties avoid the water impairments experienced by up-river counties. The project is based on the Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) process that is recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as the preferred method for protecting against the impacts of non-point source pollution. The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) are resource partners for the Bastrop County Watershed Protection Initiative. With the help of the LCRA we have developed a watershed map of Bastrop County that has been incorporated into a table-top display to promote the program. The table-top display will be used over the next year in an education and outreach program to develop a stakeholder community in support of the initiative.
Envision Central Texas
Nominated by Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald, Executive Director Steve Box has served on the Board of Directors of Envision Central Texas since 2008 and is a member of the Water Issues Committee and the Natural Infrastructure Committee (formerly the Open Spaces Committee).