UTGCD general manager talks water and wells at chamber luncheon

UTGCD General Manager Doug Shaw.

Doug Shaw, general manager for the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, was the guest speaker at the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Wednesday and provided information about groundwater and property rights, the major and minor aquifers in Texas, water levels that are declining and water use in the county.

“I have heard Doug Shaw two other times with his presentation and with all the growth coming into East Parker County, it has basically taken a lot of the water from western Parker County away and so Brock needs to be aware of what’s going on,” East Parker County Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Flowers said. “So our board of directors want to be on the forefront of this issue.”

The UTGCD serves Parker, Hood, Wise and Montague counties and Shaw explained why it was created.

“The reason the decision was made to create local districts, rather than a state agency, was really two-fold,” he said. “One was that there are multiple aquifers around the state of Texas and all of them act very differently and need to be managed differently. The second reason was because groundwater is a private property right. They wanted the decisions to be made by local folks who are actually impacted by the decisions.”

Texas has several major and minor aquifers — a body of permeable rock that can contain or transmit groundwater — including the Trinity, which runs from the Red River to the eastern edges of Bandera and Medina counties.

“In the early 2000s, (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) did a study where they look at areas where there’s some concern about what groundwater levels are doing. The largest water level decline reported in the state of Texas, and actually in the country, sits under Arlington,” Shaw said. “Basically what that means is from the first time the water levels were recorded, back in 1930s-40s until the early 2000s, in some parts of Tarrant County you see up to 1,000 feet of water level decline.”

Shaw said that people are using more water than what’s going back in to the Trinity aquifer.

“Fortunately, there’s a tremendous amount of water down there,” he said. “But what we know is that we’re taking out a lot more than what’s going back in, which is why groundwater districts like ours exists.”

The largest amount of water is used domestically in Parker County, Shaw said.

“Last year for our entire district, we processed 1,180 new well applications,” Shaw said. “There were 623 new well applications in Parker County and that was No. 1 in the state. It’s consistent every year that anywhere between 450 and 600-plus wells are being drilled in Parker County.”

Shaw said the average county drills below 50 wells per year.

“We’re blessed that we’re in the outcrop (surface extent of an aquifer), so there are very few places you can make a productive well for less than $10,000 and in Parker County you can,” Shaw said. “If you were to go into Denton County, you’re paying $20,000 or $30,000 for a well to make good water because you have to go down so much deeper.”

The UTGCD takes data readings each year for groundwater, which Shaw says will fall in the level during the summer and then come back up during the winter.

“That’s because of the stress on the aquifer. More people are pumping from it in the summer,” he said. “Then we will do some comparisons with the readings. We also drilled two monitoring wells where we can take readings every 15 minutes.”

The UTGCD has built a new office in Springtown and can help residents of Parker County with any well inquiries and data collecting. They are also partnering with the Texas Water Development Board to develop a statewide observation data collection network called TexMesonet.

“They’ve installed a weather station at our office that takes temperature, precipitation, wind speed, relative humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation, soil moisture, soil temperature, evapotranspiration and updates and uploads the readings online every 15 minutes,” Shaw said. “It should be online in the next month or so.”

The UTGCD also provides educational presentations for area kids. For more information visit uppertrinitygcd.com or call the local office at 817-523-5200.