Groundwater district wins $20K grant, approves strategic plan

MARFA – The Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District (PCUWCD) has received a generous grant from an area foundation that wishes to remain anonymous, reports the PCUWCD. The $20,000 grant was coordinated through the Dixon Water Foundation and will go directly towards the purchase and installation of equipment to monitor water levels in wells in 5 locations throughout Presidio County. The new data obtained from these wells will be compiled with existing data to assist in the district’s efforts to monitor aquifer levels and meet its obligations under the law. According to the district’s hydrogeologist Allan Standen, “Collecting water levels is the most important function of a groundwater district. Without this information, no groundwater management for the future can occur.”

The PCUWCD held its Board meeting on Tuesday July 16th at 2 PM in the Courtroom of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa. Three Directors, including David Williams, Vicky Carrasco and Board Chairman Trey Gerfers were in attendance. General Manager Carolyn Macartney was away. Director Patt Sims, who is recovering in El Paso after suffering two strokes a few weeks ago, did not attend. Director Ruben Brito resigned in May because of time constraints.

The Board mainly focused on passing a 2019-2021 strategic plan for the District. In addition to the well-level monitoring program, the plan aims to pursue greater cooperation between the City of Presidio, the City of Marfa, and the District, through a memorandum of understanding that could eventually lead to both cities joining the District and achieving greater protection of their municipal water supplies. The district has already initiated talks with the City Council of Presidio and will hold a town hall in the coming months to answer questions from the community there. Once the City of Presidio enters into a memorandum of understanding with the district, board chairman Trey Gerfers will approach the City of Marfa about also joining the district through a similar memorandum of understanding to be followed by a town hall in the coming months in Marfa.

The strategic plan also calls for water quality monitoring in order to obtain baseline data for use in assessing changes potentially related to increasing industrialization in the region. Director David Williams insisted that the strategic plan include outreach and education for landowners, as they negotiate with oil and gas operators, to better understand their options for conserving and protecting their groundwater. The strategic plan also envisions greater cooperation among regional groundwater districts in addressing water depletion from oil and gas activity and sharing of data to project future water needs across Far West Texas. Director Vicky Carrasco was instrumental in creating a clear and well-organized document for the board to pass as a strategic plan.

With budget season about to start, the board also considered a draft budget request to be submitted to commissioner’s court for the 2020 fiscal year, which Mr. Gerfers will be discussing with county auditor Patty Roach and County Judge Cinderela Guevara in the coming weeks.

The next meeting of the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District will be held in August in Presidio to coincide with a city council meeting there. The intention of the board is to present a potential memorandum of understanding to the Presidio City Council for discussion only, which will be followed by a town hall in Presidio at a later date to inform the public and answer questions from the community.