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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wise and Parker Counties Suffering Rapid Loss of Ground Water

The following is today’s editorial in the Wise County Messenger. I’ve added some comments/quotes in red below the highlighted lines of this article.

Commissioners want a conservation district
By Skip Nichols
Published Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Wise County commissioners – led primarily by Kevin Burns and Robert Rankin – want a groundwater conservation district. “It looks like it will become a reality and not one drought or injection well too soon."

" . . .There are more than 31,000 injections wells in Texas—the most of any state. " (Note: Wise County leads the state in abandoned wells slated for injection wells)” http://sandflat.blogspot.com/2006/05/hazardous-injection-wells-new-texas.html

“There are over 70 commercial injection wells in Wise County where outside waste is brought in from elsewhere to contaminate our water. . . According to the Rail Road Commission web site there are 19,000 “abandoned” wells in Wise County. If those wells aren’t properly capped, injected toxic waste water will enter those well holes into the Trinity Aquifer from below.” http://sandflat.blogspot.com/2006/02/wise-county-toxic-dumping-ground-for.html

“The demand on our most precious resource – water – is increasing at an unprecedented rate. There are more folks moving into the county, which is exceeded by only the number of gas wells being punched into the earth beneath our beautiful home.”

So let’s build the Trans Texas Corridor and run the hazardous cargo bypass loop through Wise County! That way we can increase our population of people and hazardous wastes.

"Meanwhile, rainfall has virtually ceased over the past two years.”

We’ve been in an extended drought for at least eleven years.

The result? Aquifers are dropping rapidly.

The problem is most apparent in our neighboring county – Parker.

And Wise County!

That has gotten the attention of state Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), who represents Parker and Wise counties in the state House of Representatives.

In a late-night e-mail (he apologized for any spelling or grammatical errors) to John E. Cavenahone, one of his Parker County constituents, King addressed the issue.

Here’s part of his e-mail, which he said we could print:

“I’m on a well, too, and having problems that I’ve never experienced in the last 23 years. I’m trying to determine if it’s my well or the water table. I think it’s the water table.

“I am working very closely with the Water Development Board, the Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality trying to get the correct facts on what is occurring in Parker County.

“What I’ve been surprised to learn is that there is very little hard data readily available on the aquifer in Parker County (and Wise). No agency (local, county, state or fed.) regularly monitors our water table. A measurement is taken each December by the Water Conservation Board from various monitoring wells around the county. I believe they began annual readings in 1949.

(Interestingly, according to the board’s records, there have been years that the aquifer was lower than recent years. It is cyclical with our rainfall.)

“I’ve also been surprised to learn that no one, not the RRC, TCEQ, no city, county, or state entity, knows the precise impact of gas well activity on our local water table. For example, we need to know how much ground water is being used for gas production relative to the total residential and commercial ground water use in our county. In other words, how big of am impact is drilling having? (My rough estimates suggest that gas production may represent as much as 7 or 8 percent of county-wide ground water use but no one really knows for sure.)

“No question, a gas well frac requires a tremendous amount of water. The RRC estimates an average per well of 1.5 million gallons. I think that’s a low estimate. On the other hand, a significant number of drilling and frac operations do not use ground water at all. These purchase surface water either out of a nearby stock tank or from a city with a surface water supply such as Weatherford or Fort Worth.

“Nonetheless, many people in Parker County, myself included, are experiencing severe problems with their water wells. This is due to a combination of factors – rapid population growth, gas well production and the severe drought. It is not gas well production alone as some have suggested. Gas well activity is part of the problem, but it is not the lone culprit. (For example, many other communities around North Texas are rationing water where there is no Barnett Shale drilling activity at all. And Wise County has much more gas production than Parker, but they are not having similar water problems.)”

King has since revised this once he found out that Wise County has water problems too.

Editor’s note: A staff member in King’s office said that has changed. The representative has been made aware of well problems now in Wise County.

“Bottom line, the current situation should not come as a surprise to anyone. For at least the last 20 years we have been hearing that the ground water supply could not indefinitely keep up with the local population growth (16 percent since 2000) and that the county needed to shift to surface water. A number of us, citizens and local elected officials, tried in 1999 and 2001 to implement a regional water solution. Unfortunately, try as we did, we could not get the necessary community support. In fact, we could not get anywhere near a consensus. (There was particular disagreement between the various municipalities and county officials over the structure of a county-wide water district.)

“So what’s the solution? It’s the same today as it was in 1999 and in 2001. “As much as we all dislike additional government intervention into our affairs, we need regional water management At this stage, a Groundwater Conservation District is probably the best answer for most of Parker County. The Legislature can create the district when we go back into session in January, but it will take the solid support of our city councils, commissioners court, and the community at large. Local community leaders will have to work together.

“I have my entire Capitol staff working on this issue. We are exploring legal options, potential agency enforcement and legislative options. I am more than willing to run with a legislative fix, but I will have to have the support of our communities to pass the legislation.”

Do you have an opinon on the ground water situation in Wise County? Let us hear from you. Write a letter to the editor or you can post your comments on our discussion group at http://www.wcmessenger.com/forum"

Source: http://www.wcmessenger.com/newsbindata/opinion/columns/Commissionerswantaconserva.shtml

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