We want to bring your attention to a critical issue affecting our beloved Jacob’s Well and the Hays County community. Aqua Texas, the primary water provider for Hays County, has significantly over-pumped the Trinity Aquifer, the lifeblood of Jacob’s Well, exceeding their allotted quota by double (89 Million Gallons) compared to last year. This over-pumping has resulted in the complete depletion of water flow in Jacob’s Well, leading to a fine of five hundred thousand dollars imposed on Aqua Texas, which has yet to be paid. David Baker, the Executive Director of The Watershed Association, points out, that ignoring the groundwater district’s guidelines has significantly contributed to our current predicament.
The absence of water at Jacob’s Well has caused a local disaster, resulting in substantial revenue losses for the county due to the inability to permit swimmers for the past two summers.
Conservation Efforts: During a drought, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District can limit water consumption by a certain percentage, depending on the drought stage. However, the district’s authority is limited to imposing fines; it cannot directly curtail overconsumption.
We firmly believe that monetary penalties fall short of the comprehensive justice that both Jacob’s Well and our community rightfully deserve. For over a year, the Watershed Association has been actively engaged in discussions with officials from the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and Aqua Texas executives to explore ways to mitigate drought and conserve water in the region.
What Happens Now?
What Would It Take to Save Jacob’s Well? To save Jacob’s Well, overpumping must be halted and eventually reversed. The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District has taken steps in this direction, including prohibiting new groundwater permits during emergency drought conditions and levying penalties on Aqua Texas. Negotiations are ongoing, and a settlement may involve penalties and actions to reduce pressure on Jacob’s Well. If a settlement cannot be reached, Aqua Texas’ permit may not be renewed in 2024. Some suggest that Aqua Texas should consider selling its assets to the local community or relocating its pumps to a less detrimental site for important springs. It is important to remember that Aqua Texas, a publically traded company, is not a company local to our region, but rather based on the East Coast of the United States, thus pulling millions of dollars out of the Texas Hill Country every year.
What you can do to help:
We recognize that this issue is complex, and complicated, and will take intentional collaboration across our region. We urge all members of our community to stay patient, informed, and engaged in our efforts to protect Jacob’s Well and ensure the long-term sustainability of our precious water resources.
Support Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD): HTGCD is taking a stand to hold Aqua Texas accountable for their non-compliance with their rules and drought contingency plan, but they need our backing. Here’s how you can help:
Support HTGCD’s (Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District) refusal to renew Aqua Texas’ permits until Aqua complies with their permit, including repairing the 40,000,000 gallons in leaky pipes, securing an alternative water supply by moving wells from Jacob’s Well Groundwater Management Zone, and paying ALL penalties assessed for non-compliance.
Below you can find up-to-date news coverage of this issue. Please sign up for the Watershed Association newsletter to stay relevant on our efforts and ways you can get involved.
News Coverage on Jacob’s Well
and Over-Pumping Results in Zero Flow
at Jacob’s Well
Texas Monthly; Top Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American Statesman via AP;
Bottom Photo: The Watershed Association
Who’s Killing Jacob’s Well?
Texas Monthly – August 29, 2023
It was a scorching day in July 2022 when I last peered into Jacob’s Well. In a sense, I had come to pay my respects. The artesian spring had stopped flowing again—the consequence of drought and overpumping in Hays County, one of the fastest-growing in America. For millennia, Jacob’s Well has boiled up from within the Trinity Aquifer, its cool waters traveling under pressure through a series of limestone chambers more than 4,300 feet long until they emerge at the surface, a round pool only 12 feet across, rimmed by sun-bleached Hill Country limestone.
These are the headwaters of Cypress Creek, the achingly picturesque stream that flows through Wimberley and feeds Blue Hole, a popular swimming spot. During drought, the creek replenishes the Blanco River, itself a tributary of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. As the Blanco flows over the Edwards Aquifer, the river contributes to the groundwater that supplies the beloved Barton Springs in Austin.
On this day, Jacob’s Well did not look very well. Instead of gurgling up out of its underground chambers, the spring was silent. Its water stood still, suspended at the rim. For only the fifth time in recorded history, the well had stopped running. The first occurrence was in 2000, and the cessations have become more frequent and longer, spanning weeks and months. Without its lifeblood, Cypress Creek was dry as far as the eye could see.
Utility Company Aqua Texas ‘Ignored’ Pumping Limits in 2022, Threatening Jacob’s Well
KUT – August 15, 2023
Aqua Texas, a water utility company with customers in Hays County, was fined nearly half a million dollars for pumping almost twice the amount of water it was allowed last year out of the Trinity Aquifer, which feeds Jacob’s Well.
“It’s, by far, the largest fine that’s been assessed to anybody at this groundwater district,” said Charlie Flatten, general manager of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, which issued the fine last spring.
The Trinity Aquifer supplies water to the Wimberley and Dripping Springs areas. Flatten said overpumping is partially responsible for Jacob’s Well running dry this year. Flatten said this isn’t the first time Aqua Texas has pumped more than its permit allowed to customers.
“It’s pretty habitual,” he said. “But this is a special circumstance caused by the most severe drought that we’ve had since the ’50s.” David Baker, executive director of the nonprofit The Watershed Association, has worked to protect Jacob’s Well and the surrounding natural environment for almost 30 years. He said his organization was involved in talks with officials from the groundwater conservation district and Aqua Texas executives about ways to mitigate drought and conserve water in the region.
“It’s really unacceptable to just sort of ignore the guidelines that the groundwater district has set up,” Baker said. “To not comply with those rules, we think contributed to the situation we’re in now significantly.”
Dry Springs in Central Texas Warn of Water Shortage Ahead
Inside Climate News & Texas Tribune – August 15, 2023
“Almost every other day, Charlie Flatten gets a call about another local water well gone dry. Last week, he tried to help one woman find a water truck to fill her home cistern. But all the hauling companies had suspended service amid a deepening shortage in Central Texas.“She’s got to go find somewhere else to live,” said Flatten, general manager of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in Dripping Springs. “This is extremely serious.”
Here in the booming Hill Country southwest of Austin, Flatten said, the Trinity Aquifer is at its lowest level on record. Across the region, iconic natural springs are dwindling or drying up, victims of extreme heat, persistent drought, and ever-growing demand for water.”
‘It’s heartbreaking’: Jacob’s Well stops flowing for sixth time in recorded history
KUT – August 2, 2023
“Jacob’s Well, the popular spring-fed swimming hole in Wimberley, has reached zero flow for the sixth time in its recorded history. All six of those times have occurred in the last 23 years — and it’s become more frequent. Earlier this summer, the Hays County park announced Jacob’s Well had low flow and would likely not open for swimming. Now, its flow has stopped entirely.
David Baker, executive director of the nonprofit The Watershed Association, has worked to protect the well and the surrounding natural environment for almost 30 years. He said this is the worst he’d ever seen it.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard. The community has invested lots of money in buying up land to protect it.”
Low water levels at Jacob’s Well have been a recurring issue, and experts say the well’s health is an indicator of the region’s water supply. Baker says more water is taken out of the aquifers each year and not enough is going back in to recharge them.”
Aqua Texas ignored pumping limits on the aquifer that feeds Jacob’s Well
KVUE – August 17, 2023
“A water utility company with customers in Hays County was fined $448,710 for pumping almost twice the amount of water it was allowed in 2022 out of the Trinity Aquifer, which feeds Jacob’s Well. That’s according to a report from KUT.
The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District issued the fine to Aqua Texas last spring and said it was “by far the largest fine that’s been assessed to anybody at this groundwater district. “The Trinity Aquifer supplies water to the Wimberley and Dripping Springs areas. Charlie Flatten, a spokesperson for the groundwater conservation district, told KUT that over-pumping is partially responsible for Jacob’s Well running dry.
As of earlier this month, the popular swimming hole is at zero flow. Flatten also said this isn’t the first time Aqua Texas has pumped more than it was allowed, saying it’s “pretty habitual” for the company. “But this is a special circumstance caused by the most severe drought that we’ve had since the ’50s,” he said.”
Hays Groundwater District says water company overused 89M gallons in 2022, impacting Jacob’s Well zone
KXAN – August 7, 2023
“A groundwater district in Hays County said one Central Texas water provider overpumped nearly 90 million gallons of water in 2022, leading to “by far” the largest penalties for overuse in the district, which manages the Jacob’s Well zone.
The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District said Aqua Texas, which provides water to the Woodcreek development in Hays County, overproduced its permit by 89.4 million gallons of water in 2022. This year, the company has overused 84 million gallons above its 94-million-gallon allotment as of June, according to the groundwater district.
An Aqua spokesperson said the company is working with the conservation district and its lawyer to resolve the matter and could not comment on specifics.PREVIOUS: ‘It’s a crisis for our community: Jacob’s Well has zero flow once again
If several terms are not met, the water provider said it may not be able to renew its groundwater permit in 2024, and Aqua may “be subject to substantial penalties and injunctive relief in court,” the district’s general manager Charlie Flatten told KXAN. He said the district “is always in favor of expanded conservation measures over punitive measures.”
Flatten said, “There is no evidence of drought curtailment alerts, conservation guidelines, or water messaging by Aqua to date.” KXAN asked Aqua if the company has issued or communicated any water conservation measures in the Woodcreek area that it serves, but the company did not directly respond.”
Texas utility company ignored pumping limits, endangering Jacob’s Well
MYSA – August 16, 2023
“A groundwater conservation group for Hays County says that an area utility company put popular swimming spot Jacob’s Well in danger by ignoring pumping limits. A notice of violation from Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) says Aqua Texas pumped nearly double the amount of water the company is permitted from the Trinity Aquifer, which feeds into Jacob’s Well.
HTGCD fined Aqua Texas $448,710 in the spring for going over the pumping limits. Charlie Flatten, general manager of the HTGCD, told Austin’s public radio station KUT that it is the biggest fine the organization has ever issued. He added that pumping over the limit is partially the reason that the Jacob’s Well levels dropped.
The popular spot that is frequented by swimmers closed twice this year due to low water levels. The Hays County Parks Department said in April that it was closing Jacob’s Well for the “foreseeable future” as it continued to struggle amid an ongoing drought.”
The Fate of Jacob’s Well Remains Uncertain
Texas Highways – July 2023
“I look down upon the blue-and-green-tinted waters of Jacob’s Well, the headwaters of Cypress Creek. Even barely full on this spring morning, the storied swimming hole remains enchanting. “See how it changes with the light?” muses Katherine Sturdivant, education coordinator for Jacob’s Well Natural Area.
In the receding shadows, Jacob’s Well reveals itself like an awakening eye. The dark, mirror-like surface transforms into a crystalline stone tunnel. A school of colorful sunfish and a slender Guadalupe bass circle the rim of the pool, “basically trapped in here,” Sturdivant says, due to lack of water flow. I gaze 23 feet to the pebbly edge of the Well’s floor, toward the narrow entrance of the cave that leads into the depths of the Middle Trinity Aquifer.
Increasingly, here in the over-loved and under-protected Wimberley Valley, this spring seems destined to disappear. Since 2000, Jacob’s Well has ceased flowing four times, most recently in the oppressively hot summer of 2022. Sturdivant puts that in perspective, explaining how even during Texas’ drought of record, from 1949 to 1957 when half the state’s farms went fallow, “Jacob’s Well never stopped flowing.”
‘It’s a crisis for our community: Jacob’s Well has zero flow once again
KXAN – July 28, 2023
“Jacob’s Well has been closed to swimmers for the last two summers, which Baker said is impacting local tourism. He said swimming in Jacob’s Well draws people from across the world and state.
“Hundreds of thousands of people that come here…aren’t going come here because we don’t have this water,” he said. “It’s a crisis for our community and for our region.”
Earlier in 2023, Hays County Parks officials said Jacob’s Well would be closed to swimming for the “foreseeable future.” At the time, parks and recreation staff said swim reservations would remain closed until water flow was sustainable and if staff deemed it safe for swim access.”