WIMBERLEY, Texas - Two water associations are accusing utility company Aqua Texas of contributing to the low flow at Jacob's Well.
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association and the Watershed Association hosted a meeting in Wimberley on Friday evening to discuss the issues.
The groups accuse Aqua Texas of taking almost twice as much water than allowed by their pumping permit, leaking excessive amounts of water, and not following drought prevention rules.
"Wimberley is water, and we have to protect it for the long-term if we want to have a future here," David Baker, founder and executive director of the Watershed Association, said.
He says wells from Aqua Texas directly affect Jacob's Well, and not having that open affects Wimberley's economy.
"Besides the drought, their pumping has contributed to the demise of Jacob's Well, and they did not comply with the groundwater district curtailments," he said. "That pumping in that zone is a disaster for our community long term. We really want Aqua to find a new source of water, not pump out of that zone and certainly at least comply with the local regulations."
"Just trying to get caught up on the status of the legal situation with water," longtime Wimberley resident Jerry Mayhall, who attended the meeting, said.
He says the water situation and drought restrictions have shifted his habits.
"I haven't been out of water. The way I use water has changed. The way we all use water down here had to change," he said.
Aquas Texas sued the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District late last year for unfair treatment and excessive fines.
The Watershed Association says they're also considering possible legal action.
"We'll do whatever it takes to defend our water," Baker said.
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In a statement, Aqua Texas says:
"Aqua Texas is pouring nearly $30 million into improving our Wimberley Valley water infrastructure – an investment that will bring a new era of water conservation and reuse in the Hill Country and meet the growing challenges of a changing climate and frequent droughts in the area. The upgrades include construction of a new $25 million water treatment and reuse plant, the replacement of 25,000 feet of aging water mains, and the establishment of new groundwater wells that will reduce pumping in the Jacob’s Well Groundwater Management Zone.
"Our customers represent 13% of the population that lives within the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and water is only pumped in response to their consumption needs. We aggressively enforce any drought restrictions put in place by the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District by installing flow restrictors on the water meters of homes that do not comply. As a result, on average, our customers in the Wimberley Valley use less than half as much water per month as compared to homes in other parts of Texas.
"Unfortunately, our efforts to pump farther away from Jacob’s Well have been purposefully blocked by the same local regulators publicly expressing concern about the natural spring’s water levels. Additionally, some of the mechanisms needed to pay for these upgrades face opposition from the same groups blaming our operations for perennial drought conditions seen at Jacob’s Well.
"Aqua Texas faces illegal fines from the district. The fines both exceed their statutory limit and fail to treat Aqua Texas equally with the other pumping violators whose fines were forgiven. We are therefore challenging the district’s actions in federal court. While we have every reason to believe the U.S. District Court will rule in our favor, we have agreed with the district to pause our lawsuit for a short period to try to resolve these disputes and avoid the costs of a protracted legal battle on both sides."