Water district continues preparations for monitoring program

MARFA – The Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District (PCUWCD) held its regular meeting this past Thursday April 11 at 2pm in the Jury Room of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa. Four Directors, including David Williams, Vicky Carrasco, Ruben Brito, and Board Chairman Trey Gerfers were in attendance, as well as General Manager Carolyn Macartney. Director Patt Sims did not attend.

The Board enjoyed a presentation by Mr. Dave Procyk of OTT Hydromet, one of the world’s leading providers of hydrology and metrology equipment. OTT Hydromet’s many customers include the Texas Water Development Board, the US Geological Service, the Lower Colorado River Authority, and the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts. The company has also installed equipment around the globe, including South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. In keeping with the Board’s earlier decision to focus its limited resources on 5 or 6 wells in strategic locations throughout the County, Mr. Procyk outlined the most relevant equipment options available, from most affordable to higher end.

All options involve three components: water sensor, data collection and power source. The water sensor is a probe roughly 1 inch in diameter and 8 inches long that looks like a microphone. This probe is lowered into the well and immersed between the static level and the bottom of the well, where it remains for its 10- to 15-year lifespan.

Here it collects data on the water level and transmits it through a cable that is attached to a data-logger at the wellhead. There are three options for dataloggers: manual, cellular or satellite. A person can either visit the datalogger to retrieve the data manually or the data can be transmitted via cell phone service or satellite from more remote locations.

The power source can be either a solar panel or lithium battery. The solar assembly has a lifespan of 5-10 years, while batteries need to be replaced every year or two, depending on the set-up. The data-logger and power supply assembly are mounted in or near the wellhead and must be protected against livestock. This will involve the additional expense of T-stakes and cattle panels.

The Board deliberated on the best way to cover the needs of the monitoring program and decided to first visit each well, gather information on each site, and then submit this information to OTT Hydromet for them to compile a bid.

Once the Board receives the bid, Ms. Macartney can apply for potential funding from area foundations, such as the Dixon Water Foundation, to supplement the District’s own funds. The District has already secured agreement with the Mimms Unit of the Dixon Water Foundation, Village Farms, Cibolo Creek Ranch, and one private landowner to monitor wells at those sites.

The District will also seek to monitor one of the City of Presidio’s unused wells, a well in the Casa Piedra area, and a well on the old La Mota Ranch, which now forms a part of Big Bend Ranch State Park. The District is looking to monitor wells that are currently not in use. Landowners interested in this voluntary, well-level monitoring program are kindly requested to contact General Manager Carolyn Macartney at 432.295.2568 or email [email protected]

The District is also working on a solution for the artesian wells currently flowing in the Casa Piedra area. These wells have no valves or other means of altering or shutting off their flow and constitute a waste of groundwater. The artesian pressure is such that even if a valve were installed, the water would shoot up around the metal pipe that forms the well because it lacks suitable casing (cement around the metal pipe).

Former General Manager Rudy Garcia has suggested seeking advice from oil well drillers about how best to encase these wells so that valves can be added to adjust flow or shut the wells in without water coming out around the pipe. General Manager Carolyn Macartney has been in discussions with several engineers in the Permian Basin to find a workable solution that does not place undue burdens on the owners of these wells, while at the same time resolving the issue. Board Chairman Trey Gerfers has been in discussions with the Texas Water Development Board and Dixon Water Foundation to seek funding for a potential test of concept that could be applied to the other artesian wells in the area.

The exponential growth in water use by oil and gas operators in Jeff Davis and Reeves Counties to the immediate north of Presidio County is another issue that the District has started to consider. In order to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics at play, the District has invited attorney Adam Friedman of McElroy, Sullivan, Miller & Weber, LLP, one of the largest energy practices in the State of Texas, to give a presentation on best practices and recommendations to meet the challenges ahead.

This presentation will take place on Thursday, May 9 at 6pm at the USO Building ( 302 S. Highland Ave.) in Marfa.

The next meeting of the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District will be held on Thursday, May 9 at 5 PM just prior to Mr. Friedman’s presentation at the USO Building in Marfa.