In Texas, most water use goes for agriculture – about 75 percent – and the rest is split between industrial uses and drinking water. Ground water accounts for nearly a fifth of the state’s drinking water supplies yet groundwater is barely regulated. Given that set up, it’s easy to imagine the issues groundwater users are facing as more frequent droughts drive ever more users to the well. In some places, groundwater levels have dropped by 100 feet or more.
Bell and Williamson County – both exurbs of Austin, Texas – turned to groundwater in 2011 when the worst drought in Texas state history caused surface waters to dry up. Unfortunately, the Trinity Aquifer, which underlies a large swath of central Texas, and which both counties relied on for their drinking water supplies, never recovered to pre-drought levels. This is even after several seasons of generous rainfall. More recent dry years are pushing the Trinity to its limits.
Bell County and people living in parts of Williamson County blame breakneck development in Williamson County. Williamson is outside of any groundwater conservation district, and in this patently anti-regulatory community, that’s the way people want it to stay. It’s likely that, at some point soon, the aquifer will run dry and communities will be forced to find drinking water from surface water sources in other locations.