updated 9:52 PM EDT, Mar 26, 2015
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Clearwater UWCD regulates groundwater in Bell County

By Tim Fleischer, Editor-in-Chief

Since its creation in 1999, the  Clearwater Underground Water Control District (CUWCD) has registered 4,925 wells and permits for wells in Bell County.

Of those registrations, 4,060 are grandfathered exempt wells. Another 709 are also exempt wells, according to Leland Gersbach, president of the board of directors of the CUWCD.

Speaking to the more than 100 gathered for the CUWCD 12th Annual Bell County Water Symposium, Gersbach told the group that only 153 wells are non-exempt.

Wells must be registered with CUWCD. However, exempt wells that are permitted and used for domestic and livestock usages and pump less than 25,000 gallons per day are not further regulated by the CUWCD. As of 2004, CUWCD will not permit wells on plots of land of less than 10 acres.

The CUWCD can impose regulations on the non-exempt wells tapping into either the northern segment of the Edwards Aquifer or into the Trinity Aquifer. Those wells are typically for industrial or municipal water uses. In fact, Salado Water Supply Corporation has the most non-exempt wells of any entity under regulation by the CUWCD.

Since its formation, CUWCD has proven that there are 15,000 acre feet of groundwater available in Bell County. The state had determined that there were only 3,500 acre feet over groundwater in the County. An acre foot of water can produce 325,851 gallons of water per year. This is 4.89 billion of gallons of water per year. According to the Texas AgriLife extension agency’s “Rainwater Harvesting: System Planning” (p. 52), the average four bedroom single family residence uses 375 gallons per day, or 136,875 gallons per year. The underground water capacity in Bell County would supply 35,726 homes per year.

Most municipalities in Bell County get all or most of their water from surface water: Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Belton Lake, not from pumping underground water aquifers.

“We are charged by the Legislature and by the voters of Bell County with protecting the underground water resources,” Gersbach said.

“Water isn’t going to double in the next 50 years,” he added, “but our population in Bell County will double.”

Gersbach introduced the three full-time employees of the CUWCD: Dirk Aaron, general manager who was a County Extension agent for more than two decades before joining CUWCD; Shelly Chapman, administrative assistant and Todd Strait, who is the newest hire for the CUWCD and will work on public education.