Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s board of directors has approved a management plan draft to severely limit groundwater use that would cripple private water companies and cause residents’ water bills to skyrocket. Despite calls from citizens and legislators to delay adoption until after a new board is seated in November, the current board voted 5-4 to move forward with the plan at their September 18 meeting.
The plan continues the district’s policy of allowing only 64,000 acre-feet of groundwater to be pumped out of Montgomery County’s aquifers, furthering a government monopoly on water.
Instead of allowing municipalities to buy groundwater from private water providers, the LSGCD is forcing municipalities to buy water from another government entity, the San Jacinto River Authority. In order to meet the new demand, the SJRA is implementing a $479.8 million surface water treatment plan which will be paid for by fees tacked on to residents’ water bills.
“We don’t really have a groundwater conservation plan here in Montgomery County. What we really have is a groundwater monetization plan and it is big business,” said Jon Bouche, a candidate for the board.
The LSGCD, created in 2001, is the entity charged with preserving Montgomery County’s groundwater. The nine-member board is currently appointed by various government entities; however, a bill was passed in the 85th Legislative Session making the board elected and decreasing the number of directors from nine to seven.
Many community leaders argued that adoption of a management plan should be delayed until after the citizens have had a chance to elect a new board. A joint letter from State Sens. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) and Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), and State Rep. Will Metcalf (R–Montgomery) urged the board to delay.
Although the board did push a vote on the plan back a week to allow citizen input, they ended up ignoring that citizen input and adopting a plan that will continue to raise water bills due to the government monopoly on water, illustrating exactly why a new elected board is needed.