Has the Highway 290 Pipeline Contributed to Increased Groundwater Pumpage in Northern Hays County?
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In the early 2000s, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) extended a water supply line carrying surface water originating from Lake Travis in Bee Caves, TX, traversing southwest Travis County, and extending to Dripping Springs. In Hays County, the water line originally ran along Highway 290 and has been called the “290 pipeline”, and will be referred to as such in the paper. The pipeline was installed to address potentially declining groundwater availability from existing development along Highway 290 in northern Hays County. In November, 2011, LCRA decided to divest itself of many LCRA owned and operated water and waste water systems. In 2011, the West Travis County Public Utility Agency (WTCPUA) purchased the 290 pipeline and other assets. WTCPUA was formed by the City of Bee Caves, Travis County MUD No. 5 and Hays County.
The 290 pipeline terminates approximately 1/2 miles east of the intersection of Highway 290 and Ranch Road 12. Subsequently, the pipeline was extended from Highway 290 south along Nutty Brown Road to FM 1826. The pipeline heads northeast along FM 1826 where it exits Hays County and loops back into the main pipeline along Highway 290 in Travis County (see Figure 1 on next page). See Attachment 1 for background information regarding justification for installation of the pipeline.
This paper addresses the issue of whether or not installation of the pipeline and subsequent delivery of surface water has caused an increase in groundwater pumpage in northern Hays County. The purpose of this paper is to document potential changes in groundwater pumpage in northern Hays County since surface water has been brought in via pipeline since the early 2000s and develop an opinion whether or not groundwater use increased or decreased due to the construction of the 290 pipeline.
Prior to the 290 pipeline going into service, water supplies were obtained from the Trinity Aquifer. Today in 2015, both surface water and groundwater are utilized for potable water sources in Northern Hays County. Rain water harvesting has become more popular, but only provides a small number of water supplies. Surface water is not available to all residents, either for technical or economic reasons and not all water users with reasonable access have tied into the pipeline. The larger subdivisions built along Highway 290 and FM 1826, since the pipeline was installed utilize surface water.