Current regulations, scientific research, and district rulemaking processes to protect and conserve the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Texas by groundwater conservation districts
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Groundwater is critical in Texas, representing 60 percent of total water used in 2008. Water demands in Texas are projected to increase 22 percent, largely from an almost doubling of population, within the next 50 years; this ever-increasing pressure on Texas water supplies underscores the need to optimize management of water resources. The objective of this study was to assess regulations, scientific information, and rulemaking by groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) that support policies that achieve the legislative intent of GCDs to protect and conserve groundwater resources of the states aquifers. This study's scope was the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer and managing GCDs and the following key topics were evaluated 1) management and protection issues; 2) if and how GCDs are utilizing science in development of management plans and rules; 3) whether GCDs are implementing management plans and using enforcement actions; 4) determining if GCDs would have production budgets in conflict with the Regional and State Water Plan and use of the aquifer; 5) and comparing the management plans of GCDs for compatibility. Two online surveys were developed to solicit responses from GCDs and interested parties. Results show that the predominant management issues stemmed from the uncertainty in how groundwater production was regulated and how future permitting would proceed. Environmental interest groups were concerned that GCDs would not adequately incorporate science that supports groundwater production budgets. Stakeholder groups perceived groundwater conservation management as adversely impacting their individual property rights and their region’s ability to develop water management strategies that address projected water budgets. Few formal enforcement actions have been taken by GCDs since 2007. Current water budgets and desired future conditions by the GCDs for the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer do not conflict or result in long-term deficits with respect to water budget projections established by the 2011 Regional Water Plans. GCDs adopted groundwater management plans that addressed goals including conservation and recharge, as outlined in the Texas Water Code, by creating varied objectives and standards. Unanimous public acceptance of the management plans and rules established by the GCDs may never be accomplished, but acceptance will improve through the continuation of public communication, stakeholder coordination, and education.