Gonzales Underground Water Conservation District holds Western Mitigation Fund workshop


The Gonzales Underground Water Conservation District began the process of amending the contract of the Western Mitigation fund, which is currently without funds after reportedly spending most of its mitigation funding in 2022 during Gonzales’ third worst drought on record.

The Western Mitigation fund, which aims to offset the effects of outside pumping within the district — such as Guadalupe Blanco River Authority in the Carrizo aquifer — reportedly spent $366,450 in 2022, with $208,000 being directly after Gonzales’ extreme drought conditions in November in the Carrizo aquifer. 

“Usually that transition between summer and fall is the highest mitigation time,” GUWCD General Manager Laura Martin said. “Those (November) invoices were all submitted for October. That drought hit and we still hadn’t gotten any rain and people started seeing the effects of not only the water producers pumping, but everybody pumping to supply for their cattle and their hay.”

GBRA is asking the Gonzales County Underground Water Conservation District to increase its permit from an original 15,000 acre-feet of water rights in the Carrizo Aquifer to 24,000 acre-feet, an increase of 9,000 acre-feet.

As an option in a last case scenario, the GUWCD has asked to pull funds from the Eastern Mitigation to the Western and are still awaiting further updates. This is the first of many workshops to the Western Mitigation fund contract.

There is a cap of $40,000 for those who will be needing the mitigation program when it will be in place, which could take weeks or months according to Mike St. John, Precinct 2 director, at the most recent board meeting.

According to GUWCD, there will be six primary changes to the Western Mitigation Program to help resolve financial instability. They claim this was necessitated by the lack of funding that has occurred as a result of both an extended drought — third biggest on record in 2022 for the county — and the rise of both material and labor costs in handling mitigation requests.

The six key issues were ordered by importance for those affected by outside drainage in the Carrizo Aquifer, with the top three being residential homes who have one or more residents over 65 years of age; any residential home near Carrizo regardless of age (under 65); and a residential home with a livestock concurrent use of ground water from a Carrizo well, respectively. 

Going down that list, the bottom three considerations included a non-residential home that’s primary use is livestock; any secondary home irrespective of any age; and any non-residential home that’s primary use is solely for business or commercial purposes respectively.

As an option in a last case scenario, the GUWCD has asked to pull funds from the Eastern Mitigation to the Western.

If multiple Carrizo wells exist on a single property, then only one will be in qualification. GUWCD will look at each of these wells on a case-by-case basis.

This decision, made at the Jan. 10 GUWCD board meeting, was met with some citizen pushback — with many concerns regarding the amount of drainage being pumped in such a concentrated area.

A preliminary contested case hearing on the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s request to drill three additional water wells in the Carrizo Aquifer has been set for Thursday, Feb. 16, before hearing examiner Judge Stephen B. Ables.

The individuals who are protesting the permit application have until Jan. 23, 2023, to submit all briefs to Ables for review, while the applicants have until Feb. 6, 2023, to submit their responses. The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Gonzales County Underground Water Conservation District, 522 Saint Matthew Street, Gonzales.

Readers affected by Western mitigation funding can email the Gonzales Inquirer at publisher@gonzalesinquirer.com to share their comments.