Naked City

Creedmoor, Greedmoor

The Creedmoor/Maha Water Supply Corp.'s application to quadruple its pumping rights to 617 million gallons of water a year from the increasingly threatened Edwards Aquifer represents the largest single amount ever requested of the agency that regulates aquifer pumping rights. The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) has set a public hearing date for Dec. 6 on the company's request.

Creedmoor/Maha is currently permitted to pump 205 millions of gallons of water per year for its service area, south of Austin. An additional 412 million gallons would be nearly triple what the city of Buda is allowed to pump from the aquifer. Last week, the Buda City Council passed a resolution opposing the water supplier's request, fearing the additional pumpage would threaten the city's own water needs. The Hays County Free Press quoted Buda Council Member Chuck Murphy's reaction to the supplier's request: "What are they trying to do, grow rice?"

Meanwhile, BSEACD officials say Creedmoor/Maha General Manager Charles Laws hasn't explained the requested water increase (Laws did not return a Chronicle phone call seeking comment). "I think it's within our boundaries to ask [Laws] for additional information," said Jim Camp, a BSEACD board member. "Just what is the beneficial use? The public needs to know." Others speculate that Laws is preparing for an onslaught of large-scale developments (some with direct ties to Austin developer Gary Bradley) slated for the budding Buda area, just south of Austin on I-35. For instance, Indiana-based retail developer Simon Property Group Inc., which already owns three Austin-area malls, is negotiating to buy 200 acres in Buda for a big mall project that may also include a hotel.

Laws, a strong property-rights advocate, has a long, contentious history with BSEACD. A few years ago, he collected enough signatures to place an item on the ballot to dissolve the agency, but voters rejected the proposal. This time, according to Brian A. Smith, assessment program manager for the conservation district, Laws indicated he would take the agency to court if it denied his request.

BSEACD has already started working on a groundwater computer model that will be developed and presented to the Texas Water Development Board at the end of December. The model, which would simulate the "real-world" aquifer in order to determine water availability and the cumulative impact of wells drawing from the aquifer, presumably will help the BSEACD make more informed decisions on matters such as Creedmoor/Maha's pumping requests. Unfortunately, Smith said, "we won't have any answers for the board at that [Dec. 6] meeting."

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