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Public hearing Dec. 20 on potential groundwater use restrictions

Palmer Hydrological Index for Texas October 2022

The Palmer Hydrological Drought Index depicts the continued critical drought in Burnet County and much of Central Texas despite recent rainfall. Courtesy image

The Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District will hold a public hearing Dec. 20 on the potential implementation of mandatory groundwater-use restrictions for high-volume users in Burnet County.

The hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service auditorium, 607 N. Vandeveer St. in Burnet.

The district’s Board of Directors is considering the restrictions due to the severe hydrological drought conditions affecting the county. This is the first time since the district’s creation in 2005 the board has looked at mandatory restrictions. 

Burnet County has been under Stage 4 critical drought conditions, the most severe stage, since June. Drought stages are based on the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index, which the district uses as a guide when making decisions on groundwater resources in the county.

The board will follow the hearing with a meeting and a vote on whether to implement mandatory restrictions. If approved, the changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and last until Dec. 31 of that year, or until terminated by further board action. 

Under restrictions, the county’s permitted wells would see up to a 15 percent decrease on the maximum allowable groundwater use. Exempt wells, those with flow rates less than 17.36 gallons per minute, would not be affected.

The board voted to have district General Manager Mitchell Sodek organize a public hearing on the proposed restrictions after a Nov. 18 regular meeting, which focused on current severe drought conditions in Burnet County. The district’s drought management plan dictates a decision on restrictions be made before the end of the year if they are to be put into effect by 2023. 

The county has 170 permitted wells, accounting for about 50-60 percent of the total allowable groundwater use. Every permit holder will be notified of the public hearing and potential restrictions.

“The purpose (of the hearing) is to get input from the non-exempt permit holders,” Sodek told DailyTrib.com. “We’re trying to be proactive in conservation. The hardest thing about droughts is that we don’t know when they’re going to end.”

Those interested in learning more about the potential changes can visit the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District office at 225 S. Pierce St. in Burnet or contact 512-756-4900 or district@centraltexasgcd.org.

dakota@thepicayune.com