New bills aim to protect Hays County groundwater

The fight over one of the state's most precious resources is making its way to the state Capitol.

Two Central Texas lawmakers are pushing to protect groundwater in Hays County. Together Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, and Sen. Donna Campbell, R- New Braunfels, filed bills in the house and senate addressing water issues and property rights.

"Finally the day has come," said Rep. Isaac during a press conference Thursday. Leaders from Hays County and members of the community made the trip to the Capitol to join Isaac and Campbell for the press conference.

"I'm confident the legislation we're introducing will preserve the beauty of the Hill County and preserve property rights and the rapid growth of our population responsibly," said Sen. Campbell.

The bills would expand the boundaries of two groundwater conservation districts to include all of Hays County. A third bill would limit eminent domain outside the boundaries and service area of the Goforth Special Utility District.

"Goforth SUD using eminent domain authority for the benefit of a private company is an egregious abuse of their power," said Isaac. HB 3407, if passed, would prevent Goforth from acquiring the pipeline easements by condemning land from property owners along FM 3237 and FM 150.

The bills stem from a project that has been in the works for several years now.

The proposed legislation would protect Hays County residents like Louie Bond. "We live on our own personal wells and the drought has been tough," said Bond. She felt threatened by Electro Purification's plans to pump millions of gallons of water from the Trinity Aquafer. Goforth SUD entered into contract with the Houston company to pay for the water.

"You've got a utility district abusing power of domain and essentially trespassing across people's property to lay a pipeline which would be owned by a private company and it's for the private benefit at a detriment to the public," said Isaac. "It sends a clear message to people who are trying to do this who are taking away other property rights," he added.

"This isn't something we could do on our own. We couldn't scream them away," said Bond.

Isaac says people in Hays County with water and those who need water are working together to preserve and protect a valuable resource.

"There's going to be a sigh of relief when it gets passed. Right now it's cautious optimism," said Isaac.

The city of Buda entered into contract with EP for some of that water. Buda city leaders were not immediately available for comment and reaction to the new legislation.

Spokesperson Leonard Dougal issued this statement to FOX 7 on Goforth's behalf.

Goforth serves water to about 20,000 people in rural areas outside of Buda and generally east of I-35. The Hays County portion of the Goforth district is rapidly growing and the district needs additional water supply to serve that growth. We believe the legislation relating to Goforth, as drafted, would have a detrimental effect on Goforth's ability provide adequate and reliable water to our customers, and we look forward to working with Representative Isaac to find a solution to his concerns while also ensuring customers of Goforth continue to have reliable and cost-effective water service.