2013-03-07 / Front Page

Water Marketer Seeks Permits for Ten Wells Near Lexington

The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District will meet in regular session on Wednesday, March 20, and will consider permitting a number of wells that have been applied for by various entities. Of particular interest to the Lexington community is the application by Forestar Real Estate Group, Inc., who have applied for operating permits and transfer permits for ten wells located north and east of the City.

Forestar Real Estate Group, Inc. describes themselves on their website as being “a real estate and natural resources company with a strategy to develop a vision for every acre. This vision originates from our commitment to developing real estate and natural resources to their highest purpose. Our Dimensional Land Model ™ reflects Forestar’s strength in identifying and delivering multiple dimensions of value from land and natural resources - both above and below the ground - in a fully integrated way.”

While they don’t tout themselves as being “water marketers”, that appears to be one aspect of their business, considering their application with LPGCD. Their application proposes that they complete the wells, if approved, in the Simsboro Aquifer and to withdraw an aggregate of 45,000 acre-feet of water per year from the ten wells to be used for public water supply purposes in Bastrop, Hays, Lee, Travis and Williamson Counties.

According to Joe Cooper, former General Manager of the LPGCD and who is currently consulting for the District, Forestar’s application includes a timeline, of sorts, that explains their water needs over the next 40 or 50 years. Those needs appear to be predicated on the company’s growth plans, which includes their real estate segment of the company, which develops infrastructure on the land that it owns, primarily for single-family residential and mixed-use communities.

There are some who speculate that Forestar will do what several other water marketers before them have done, which is, once they receive the permits to drill, which would show they have the right to drill and, thus a supply of water, they could sell that aspect of their company to, yet, another water marketing company, like Water Texas, or to municipalities, like the City of Hutto, who may need the well capacity in case of drought or for future growth of their city.

Cooper said that, under current laws, he will feel compelled to recommend the approval of the permits, but the final decision will be in the hands of the board members of the LPGCD. If the wells are approved, Cooper said Forestar will have six months to get the wells drilled and completed and then they will have two years to have some water going somewhere. He went on to say he didn’t know how they plan to move the water, but that they would be obligated to move it within that two year timeframe.

If the board approves the permits, Cooper said that would not preclude someone contesting the permits. If that happens, the actual drilling could be delayed for several weeks or months.

He went on to say that he understands some people’s concerns about water marketers, like Forestar, but he also said that the law has a safety net in place to keep water marketers, municipalities and water supply corporations from exhausting the drawdown limits of the aquifer.

“This safety net is an existing statute requiring water districts to establish Desired Future Conditions of each aquifer within the District every five years. The District must monitor the aquifer levels to meet and not exceed the limits of drawdown.As long as the state keeps its safety net in tact, the public doesn’t have to worry about pumping too much water out of the aquifer,” said Cooper.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and will be held at Bastrop City Hall. For more information, contact the Lost Pines Groundwater District at lpgcd@lostpineswater.org.

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