OPINION: They're Pumping Water Like Drunken Sailors

By: Bruce Tough
| Published 05/05/2023


Over-pumping of the groundwater from our precious aquifers continues to cause subsidence, or the compaction of soil and the sinking of land, which increases flooding and damages infrastructure above and below ground. Over-pumping also increases disturbances in fault lines, leads to permanent loss of aquifer capacity, and will result in higher long term water costs as groundwater becomes increasingly costly due to sinking well levels.

The groundwater pumpers are at it again in Montgomery County, pumping water like drunken sailors

The future costs of over-pumping our groundwater will greatly outweigh any short-term profits to groundwater pumpers, which they may or may not pass on to their customers.

These issues have grown in importance in Montgomery County as aquifer levels have declined over the years due to over-pumping.

See below for IMMEDIATE ACTION you can take.

In recent years the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), under Jace Houston’s leadership, has done an excellent job developing treated surface water from Lake Conroe as an additional local source of water. This helps reduce groundwater pumping to a sustainable level that will allow our aquifers to naturally replenish. They are taking a responsible and balanced approach to the use of groundwater and surface water. The utilization of surface water, which generally drains away into the Gulf, benefits ALL of Montgomery County because it helps prevent subsidence and conserves aquifer levels and capacity for ALL groundwater users in the county. The foresight and planning of the SJRA’s Groundwater Reduction Plan (GRP) has made drinkable surface water available with a shared cost model in Montgomery County.

Some groundwater pumping companies and municipalities who want to pump our aquifers with no regulation and no regard for subsidence and future water costs are not happy with this. They are attempting to undermine SJRA’s efforts to sustain our aquifers by pushing for targeted legislation in the Texas legislature that would force the SJRA’s General Manager, Jace Houston, out of his position. This an abuse of the legislative process that does nothing to address the critical underlying issues and concerns for Montgomery County, which will need water from multiple sources now and in the future.

The last-minute amendment to HB 1540 by Representative Will Metcalf of Conroe, and unfortunately supported by local Representative Steve Toth, is attempting to chip away at the SJRA’s efforts to sustain our aquifers and prevent subsidence.

Metcalf argues that only seven entities in Montgomery County receive surface water from SJRA, but that the other entities are being 'forced' to pay fees for the groundwater reduction plan to build the surface water treatment plant. This argument completely misses the point that the plan protects and sustains the aquifers that ALL the entities are drawing water from, which is why this shared cost model benefits all of Montgomery County.

Rep. Metcalf should consider taking a more responsible approach to protecting the aquifers under Montgomery County. Our precious groundwater should be managed on a conservative basis for widespread public benefit. It is not an inexhaustible resource.

Metcalf's amendment was received by the Senate on May 1. That’s why it is important to take immediate action.


Please call Senator Brandon Creighton, tell him that you oppose Rep. Metcalf’s amendment to HB 1540, and ask him to reject the current version of HB 1540 due to Metcalf’s amendment. Say your call is “to be recorded in opposition of HB1540.” This amendment affects his district and it is important for him to take a stand against it.

Senator Brandon Creighton: (512) 463-0104

Additional senators to call with the same message who may take an interest in this matter include:

Senator Robert Nichols: (512) 463-0103
Senator Lois Kolkhorst: (512) 463-0118
Senator Paul Bettencourt: (512) 463-0107
Senator Bryan Hughes: (512) 463-0101
Senator Angela Paxton: (512) 463-0108
Senator Charles Perry: (512) 463-0128

Please also call your state representative and tell them that you do not support Metcalf’s amendment to HB 1540. Ask them to accept the original language of SB 2586 without Metcalf’s Amendment. Say that your call is 'to be recorded in opposition to Rep. Metcalf's amendment to HB 1540.'

Representative Will Metcalf: (512) 463-0726
Representative Steve Toth: (512) 463-0797
Representative Cecil Bell: (512) 463-0650
Representative Ernest Bailes: (512) 463-0570

For additional background information on these late-breaking developments, see:

Reps. Metcalf and Toth, Why? Concern Mounts about Last Minute Amendment to San Jacinto River Authority Bill - Why to Call State Legislators Now

Amendment to H.B. 1540 Could Force Changes in SJRA Management

To learn more about the impacts of subsidence in Montgomery County and the importance of utilizing surface water to sustain our aquifers, see:

Subsidence in The Woodlands

Escalating Water Battles in Montgomery County and the 2022 LSGCD Director Elections

Thank you,

Bruce Tough
Principal Attorney
Tough Law Firm

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