North Texas Groundwater Conservation District (NTGCD) adopted permanent rules in December of 2018. TAGD sat down with NTGCD to learn more about the rule adoption process, and is sharing some of the takeaways with you here.
TAGD: Can you describe the process your district went through in developing rules?
NTGCD: Our rules were developed over the course of 13 public board meetings. As a result, the Board committed a lot of their time to the process of rulemaking–the District relied on the full Board, not just select committees, to develop the rules. Each major change in the rules was thoroughly deliberated by the Board over the course of these public meetings. The District’s legal counsel Kristen Fancher, with Fancher Legal, and our consulting hydrogeologist James Beach, with WSP, were also very involved in helping the District promulgate rules.
TAGD: Did you hold any stakeholder meetings as a part of the rule development process?
NTGD: As I mentioned earlier, the rules were dissected piece-by-piece at our regular Board meetings, instead of at the committee level, so as to give ample opportunity for interested parties to participate in the process. The District follows the statutory requirements on agenda postings, but in addition, we also send out emails containing Board Agendas and Packets to all well owners, drillers, and other interested parties prior to every meeting. Interested parties attending meetings were encouraged to participate in the rule discussion.
While NTGCD did not hold any specific stakeholder meetings, there were several staff-level meetings with stakeholders–drillers, producers, and pump suppliers–where rule development was discussed. These meetings proved very beneficial to the District as we were able to take different perspectives into account prior to adopting the rules.
TAGD: Any surprises along the way?
NTGCD: Not really. We did receive comments from the drilling community on the exempt well threshold and how the drillers would be able to drill an exempt well and ensure that it met the new 17.36 gpm exemption threshold. The District flow tests completed wells and the concern was that it is difficult to size a pump for an exact flow rate given the variance of aquifer conditions and properties at any given location. In response to this concern, the District utilized pump curves provided by the local pump suppliers to better understand the flow variance for pumps and worked with local drillers to develop a flow testing procedural document which allows for a reasonable margin of error.
TAGD: As you were designing your rules, what were your primary objectives?
NTGCD: We were really just trying to make sure that every major component of the rules received healthy consideration, and that we carefully reviewed each change and its impact to the regulated community. With the Board being such active participants in the development, we were able to discuss and debate with many different perspectives.
TAGD: What projects/scientific studies were undertaken to inform the district’s rules?
NTGCD: Several Districts in GMA 8 undertook a $1.9 million project to update the State’s Northern Trinity /Woodbine Groundwater Availability Model prior to the last round of joint planning. Not only did this project help for Joint Planning purposes, but NTGCD also used the updated model to inform decisions made in regard to well spacing rules. Utilizing the new model, James Beach’s team provided a substantial amount of spacing analysis. While this was obviously discussed a lot amongst staff and the consulting teams outside of Board Meetings, the spacing analyses and options were presented, discussed and debated in at least 6 Board Meetings. Each presentation and discussion included a detailed review of the data supporting the spacing rules.
TAGD: Please describe the permitting approach that you adopted in your rules.
NTGCD: The District utilizes both Historic Use Permits and Production Permits based on reasonable demand. This approach was selected based on local development, land use and aquifer conditions within the District. Both the new spacing and permitting rules were developed in consideration of the historical development and the expected growth and increase in demand in the District. The regional and state water planning process has identified surface water supplies to meet much of the expected increase in demand over the planning cycle, and the District carefully evaluated these projections throughout the last round of joint planning and in its rules development.
More on NTGCD Permitting
- Historic Use Permits: Non-Exempt well owners that were registered with the District prior to the adoption of permanent rules receive a Historic Use permit based upon their metered usage from 2010-2018 (the Historic Use Period), with certain limited alternatives available to recognize historic use.
- Production Permits: Any additional water that users may need or any water a new well owner may need must be applied for by justifying reasonable demand.
- Drought Buffer: The District Board of Directors also chose to incorporate a drought buffer into permits that is triggered during extreme drought in order to lessen the impact to permittees during such drought conditions.
- Spacing Requirements: New wells or wells that propose to increase production capacity are required to follow the Districts spacing requirements which are detailed in the chart below.
- Hydrogeological Report: In addition, new wells or well systems capable of producing 200 gpm or more are required to submit a Hydrogeological Report which provides the District with more detailed information on how a proposed well would impact the DFC as well as existing wells in the vicinity of the proposed well.
District Programs & Operations
TAGD: Tell us a little about your monitoring well program.
NTGCD: The District has a monitoring well program composed of monitor wells that were inherited from the Texas Water Development Board. NTGCD is in the process of trying to broaden the coverage by adding additional wells. The District currently uses e-tape, steel tapes and an air compressor for water level monitoring. We hope to add several continuous monitoring level devices–pressure transducers and acoustic–in the near future.
TAGD: Sounds like a helpful set of data to have around. How does the district access this information and other data?
NTGCD: The District is currently under contract with INTERA to develop a new and comprehensive database. Some of the goals of this project are to improve the ways in which the District is able to consume data, improve on operational efficiency, improve the application process for drillers and well owners, and develop a more convenient and error-resistant method for users to submit meter readings to NTGCD.
Visit NTGCD’s website at northtexasgcd.org.