Pecan Valley GCD
Nestled in the Golden Crescent region of South Texas, DeWitt County is home to the Pecan Valley Groundwater Conservation District. Pecan Valley GCD was created in 2001 to protect property rights and manage groundwater resources in the Gulf Coast, Chicot, Evangeline, Burkeville, and Jasper aquifers. The district has a strong commitment to the use of sound science, responsible fiscal management, and financial transparency.
The region served as an important route for cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail, so you may not be surprised to know that livestock is one of the largest groundwater uses within the district! In true Texas fashion, DeWitt County honors its cowboy heritage while celebrating a new heyday – oil and gas. The primary groundwater uses in Pecan Valley GCD are domestic/livestock and oil and gas, and the district is working proactively to protect groundwater for all users. Home to over 6,000 oil and gas wells in the Eagle Ford Shale Play, Pecan Valley GCD has developed a positive relationship with the oil and gas companies. Permitted well owners who use groundwater for hydraulic fracturing are required to report their production on a quarterly basis.
Pecan Valley GCD issues permits with production limits based on the contiguous acreage owned. The district’s rules allow ½ acre-foot of water per contiguous acreage owned, with any existing operating permits on the land taken into consideration for the total amount allowed to be permitted. The district encourages drilling deeper wells by offering a higher production limit for wells deeper than 700 feet. The deeper wells can help mitigate pumping interference between neighbors. This approach has worked well for the district, with water well drillers helping to promote these deeper wells, particularly for large volume users.
With an increase in oil and gas activity and hydraulic fracturing, Pecan Valley GCD began an extensive water quality testing program for DeWitt County in 2015. This study was intended to develop a baseline assessment of water quality in case any issues came up in the future. The district contracted with Daniel B. Stephens & Associates to test water wells throughout the county, aiming for at least one sample well in every model grid cell used by the Texas Water Development Board for groundwater modeling. This testing program took place over three years, with an investment of nearly $225,000 paid by Pecan Valley GCD.
The district conducted baseline water quality tests for over 160 wells, including additional tests in areas of concern. The neighboring Goliad County is home to a uranium mining operation, which prompted the district to sample several wells near the county line to establish a baseline and make sure that there was no contamination present. Pecan Valley GCD also tested areas with hydraulic fracturing activity. Gathering and monitoring this water quality data is the district’s way of protecting groundwater quality for generations to come.
Employing both of the funding mechanisms available to groundwater conservation districts – fees and property taxes – Pecan Valley GCD is committed to accountability not only to well owners, but to residents and business owners in the county as well. As such, the district strives for complete financial transparency with all of its stakeholders. On the district’s website, PVGCD.org, “Financial Transparency” is a top-level menu item that is displayed front-and-center. Upon clicking that link, a website visitor will find all budgets since 2004, financial audits, utility use reports, and Truth in Taxation information. Each document cites the statute that governs it, and some have detailed explanations of the components and numbers that make it up.
Financial management and transparency are something that Cindy Parma is proud to bring to the district. Prior to joining Pecan Valley GCD as its General Manager in 2019, Cindy was the first assistant auditor for DeWitt County. “With my previous 33 years in county government, I realize how important financial transparency is for a local taxing entity and I want the citizens of DeWitt County to see how the tax revenue is conservatively managed and spent,” said Parma.
Pecan Valley GCD purchased land in 2015 and broke ground on a new office building at no cost to taxpayers. After the board of directors considered restoring an existing building, they decided instead to purchase property and build their own office on the main highway in Cuero, the county seat of DeWitt County. Through the years, the board committed all income from groundwater production fees to be used for the purchase and construction on the new property, which means no taxpayer funds were used. However, the entire community benefits from this investment, since the district allows non-profit and civic groups to utilize the district’s meeting room at no charge.
The groundwater users of DeWitt County can count on Pecan Valley GCD to protect their water quality and manage their groundwater and financial resources wisely. To learn more about Pecan Valley GCD, visit PVGCD.org or call 361-275-8188.