No, Montgomery County does not have a water problem – We have a government problem
To the editor:
Jace Houston's recent diatribe about groundwater and the Great Montgomery County Surface Water Scheme was surprising only in its strident tone, given the otherwise indefensible actions of the San Jacinto River Authority and Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District. But for anyone who has not looked into the reasons for the tenfold increase in SJRA's pumpage rates over the past eight years, there are some surprises. Start with the surprising fact that LSGCD was pretty much SJRA's creation in the first place, needed only for the purpose of imposing Draconian restrictions on groundwater pumping in order to create a market for comparatively expensive surface water from Lake Conroe. Before LSGCD existed, Montgomery County had enough groundwater beneath its boundaries to serve its population for centuries to come and still does.
We do not have a groundwater problem; we have a regulatory problem.
Mr. Houston ignores the best available science when he claims that the Montgomery County wells will "run dry." One fine day, he'll get to explain that statement. For now, know that the Texas Water Development Board estimates that the portion of aquifers under Montgomery County alone contains up to 180 million acre-feet of water, more than all the surface lakes in the entire state of Texas combined.
Another surprising fact is the many conflicts of interest that are present on both the Lone Star board and SJRA. Houston is not only the general manager of SJRA, but he also sits on the Lone Star board of directors. With that fact in mind, it is no surprise that things were done as they were. For example, to make the new surface-water scheme work (at half-a-billion dollars), SJRA needed folks to buy the lake water, which would be far more expensive than groundwater. If there is a world of groundwater available, no one would want to pay double for lake water. Enter the Lone Star board, including its SJRA members, claiming a crisis and forcing all the groundwater users to reduce use by 30 percent by 2016. SJRA's own "official statement" issued in connection with the sale of its bonds admits that a risk of buying the things is that LSGCD might change its regulations in the future.
Surprisingly, the only wells in Montgomery County that actually needed to lower their pumps to continue pumping groundwater were in The Woodlands. The wells are owned by, wait for it, the SJRA. SJRA also has maintenance and operation agreements (that SJRA gets paid for) with all the MUDs in The Woodlands. The same attorneys handle both the MUD business and SJRA business. That same law firm got paid about $4 million for getting the bonds sold that financed phase one of this great scheme. If you like your present doubled-up water rates, watch for phases two, three and four with at least another billion dollars added to the cost and the attorneys again making multiples of millions of dollars off of each phase.
Houston says that this must be a good plan because 80 water utilities implemented it. That's pure hogwash! We had a gun to our head courtesy of your friends and business associates on the Lone Star board. Give those water suppliers a chance to get out of your scheme and rely on their own science, and you'll see companies like mine dropping SJRA like a rock - and you'll see rates go back down.
Houston described our consultants as outliers in his article in a negative fashion. As far as our consultants being outliers, I am in agreement with that description, but in a positive light. I recommend the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The chapter named "the 10,000 hours" gives a better understanding as to how these "outliers" become "lucky" and how they are so good at what they do. It mentions Bill Gates and the Beatles as examples. We are looking forward to you and your consultants raising their right hands and swearing under oath about the science and math behind their thinking.
Thomas Jefferson once said, "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have."
Owner of Woodland Oaks Utility Company