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The city of Bertram wants to bump up its allowable annual groundwater use by 13 percent after more than doubling it in 2023. The Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District is holding a public hearing on the matter on May 23.

Bertram is 100 percent dependent upon groundwater drawn from the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer by two wells on a ranch located on County Road 340 just outside of Burnet. The small city seeks to amend its permit with the groundwater district to add 103.07 acre-feet of annual allowable groundwater use to its existing 792.58 acre-feet. 

A public hearing on the potential amendment is at 9 a.m. May 23 at the Groundwater Conservation District office, 225 S. Pierce St. in Burnet. The meeting is open to the public, and attendees will have the opportunity to comment.

In January 2023, Bertram’s groundwater permit with the district increased by 116 percent from 366.5 acre-feet to 792.58 acre-feet. The change was made after the city acquired the groundwater rights to 426 acres bordering the ranchland where its wells are located.

Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District General Manager Mitchell Sodek is recommending to the district’s Board of Directors that Bertram be required to conduct a hydrogeologic investigation before additional water use is approved. No thorough testing of the city’s wells has been recorded, he said, making it difficult to measure the potential ramifications of granting an increase in groundwater use.

“We don’t have conclusive evidence that their wells are, one, capable of (producing) that much (groundwater), and two, what the wells’ impacts on surrounding wells may be,” Sodek told DailyTrib.com. “There is a time that (testing) has to be done, and because they keep going up and up and up, we need to understand what the impacts of those wells might be.”

DailyTrib.com reached out to Bertram city officials with questions about the reason behind the request for more groundwater but received no response as of this story’s publication on Monday, May 13.

The decision of whether or not to approve the permit amendment falls to the district’s board members, who could take action on May 23. It is also at the board’s discretion whether or not to require Bertram to conduct a hydrogeologic investigation before any decision is made on the permit amendment.

Despite recent rainfall and rising levels in Highland Lakes reservoirs, Burnet County is still under the Stage 4 critical drought level regarding groundwater. The county has been in Stage 4 since June 2022. The Groundwater Conservation District imposed mandatory a 15 percent water reduction for large groundwater users in 2022, which is still in effect.

dakota@thepicayune.com

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