Panola County Groundwater Conservation District

Carthage, Texas

Leah Adams, General Manager

Panola County Groundwater Conservation District encompasses all of Panola County and the Middle and Lower Wilcox Aquifers of the Carrizo-Wilcox Group. The District was created in 2007 to help protect the groundwater in Panola County from overuse and contamination. 

In Panola County GCD, all wells exceeding an annual production capacity of 25,000 gallons must be permitted unless they are wells for oil and gas or mining. Oil and gas and lignite mining are the largest water users in this rural District. As with some other GCD’s, the district’s biggest efforts relate to oil and gas development and winning the trust of the rural landowners. Through Panola County GCD’s leadership, the local stakeholders have come to understand that both industry and groundwater property interests are best served when the resource is managed for groundwater quality and future availability.

The management of Panola County GCD is science-driven. The District’s goal is to map the entire subsurface of the County from 1 to 700 feet and have a solid understanding of how subsurface water moves through the sands. The District is also committed to protecting groundwater against both surface and subterraneous contamination. This goal is achieved primarily through water well construction standards and well monitoring.

In 2013, Panola County GCD became the first GCD to receive a grant from an oil and gas corporation, and the District has been working cooperatively with several companies including Chevron, EOG, and Anadarko to better understand the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Panola County.

In addition to its regular monthly water well monitor program, Panola County GCD also administrates a hydraulic fracturing pond monitor well program. The program is used not only to study the effects of hydraulic fracturing on the aquifer, but also in understanding how the aquifer reacts to pumping. Over the past two years, Panola County GCD has collected the data from five hydrogeological studies to help estimate the hydraulic properties of aquifers, evaluate well performance, and identify aquifer boundaries.

The Panola County GCD Board meets monthly and consists of nine elected Board Members. Each of the four County Precincts has two Board Member representatives. The ninth Board Member is At-Large. Panola County GCD has four full-time employees. Jess Landreneau, the District’s Field Technician, holds a degree from Louisiana State University and went to Carthage High School. Mitzi Shuttlesworth started with the District this year and serves as the District’s Office Manager. The District currently has one open position for a Field Technician.

Leah Adams has been the General Manager of Panola County GCD for three and a half years. She sought out government work because of a desire to contribute in a meaningful way and to make a difference in her community. Leah stays busy in her community, too.  She is a member of the Panola County Development Foundation and serves as Secretary for the Panola County Lions Club, a member and founder of the Busy Quilters Guild of Carthage, Secretary of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts, and a Certified USASF Cheer and Tumble coach.

Before coming to work for the District, Leah worked as an Account Manager for photo speed and red light programs in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Tennessee. Leah received an Associate’s degree from Panola College, a Bachelor’s in Public Administration from Stephen F. Austin State University, and a Master’s of Science in Public Administration from the University of North Texas. She has been working in governmental management for over 20 years.

Leah lives on a small ranch in Gary, Texas with her husband Travis and their 11-year-old daughter. Travis recently retired from a 20-year career as a professional rodeo bullfighter and currently runs the Pete Carr Classic Pro Rodeo out of Athens, Texas. Leah and her family enjoy small-town living and the rural pace of life in Gary, which boasts a population of 303. Leah and her family maintain a very active lifestyle on their ranch. The family is working to be completely off the grid and they grow most of their own food, raising cows, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and pigs, and growing fruits and vegetables. They also make wine, soap, jellies, and pickles, and Leah sews for the family.

Panola County GCD is a voting member of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts. Leah describes TAGD as a valuable educational resource and appreciates the voice that TAGD gives to GCDs at the state level.