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Groundwater conservation district ponders stakeholder meetings

Ryan Rowney

Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors President Ryan Rowney proposed the idea of holding regular stakeholder meetings to gather input from the community on groundwater management in Burnet County. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District board President Ryan Rowney wants to hold regular stakeholder meetings, allowing community representatives to provide input on groundwater management in Burnet County. Rowney proposed the idea during the Board of Directors’ regular meeting on Feb. 17, but no decisions can be made until the next meeting on March 21.

The idea was met with general approval from fellow board members. The idea, Rowney said, is to bridge the gap between different interest groups in the community and raise awareness of the challenges Burnet County faces with the ongoing drought. 

The board has made a few tough decisions in recent months, such as implementing mandatory water restrictions for the first time and approving large increases in groundwater use for the city of Bertram and rock quarries in the county

The stakeholder meetings would likely include representatives from varying interest groups across Burnet County, such as property owner associations, ranchers, quarries, agricultural sectors, cities, and conservation groups.

“Water seems to bring out a different level of concern than a lot of other things do,” Rowney said. “The drought is not letting up at this point. The optics of things that are occurring are sometimes troublesome for all of us.”

He was referring to conflicting messages of implementing mandatory water restrictions while also approving increased water usage — two votes that occurred within a month of each other.

In December, the board approved 15 percent mandatory reductions on total allowable groundwater use for all permitted well owners in the county, which includes the city of Bertram. In January, the board doubled Bertram’s allowable groundwater usage after a request from the city.

Bertram draws 100 percent of its water from two city-owned wells on the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer. 

“We’ve got so many varying conflicts between quarries, between developers, between municipalities,” Rowney said. “We know we need to make some rule changes.”

Rowney had a 34-year career with the Lower Colorado River Authority and retired as vice president of Water Operations.

“My biggest challenge at LCRA was working with interests upstream and downstream, and they were diametrically opposed,” he told after the meeting. “People get worked up about water, whether it’s groundwater or surface water. We can’t make it rain. All we can do is manage what we have.”