Our Water Matters

Regional groundwater news

The Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District recently received a generous grant from the Dixon Water Foundation to expand groundwater monitoring efforts within the county. The funding will go toward the purchase and installation of equipment in two wells, including one on the C.E. Miller Ranch south of Valentine. This location is of particular interest to the district because it lies about a mile as the crow flies from the hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) activity that has been occurring in the northwest corner of the county for several years now. The data from this well and the well monitored by the Texas Water Development Board in nearby Antelope Valley will enhance the district’s understanding of any impacts on the West Texas Bolsons aquifers in that area. Funding from this grant will also be used to equip a monitoring well just north of Marfa on the Mimm’s Unit, which is owned and operated by the Dixon Water Foundation. The data from this well could provide insight into the aquifer recharge entering the county from rainfall in the Davis Mountains to the north. This grant, which also includes funding for various equipment updates on other wells, is one of a series of collaborative efforts in recent years between the district and the Dixon Water Foundation.

In other news, Alpine native Ari Stallard became the new general manager of the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District on March 1. Stallard completed the bulk of her studies in geology at UT Austin before transferring to Sul Ross because there were “better research opportunities along the Rio Grande.” After graduating from Sul Ross with a B.S. degree in geology/GIS, she worked for several years as a hydrology and GIS consultant for the World Wildlife Fund and as a fluid performance engineer for Halliburton. Stallard also runs a textile design and import business that takes her to Oaxaca, Mexico, from time to time.

When asked what drew her to the position of general manager of a groundwater district, Stallard replied that she was “looking to do something positive” in the region, while also finding “something in my field.” She expressed that it was “really good coming home” and that she looked forward to “educating the community in groundwater” and helping them to understand that the “resource is finite.” Fortunately, the Big Bend region has not experienced the level of intensive development currently stressing the aquifers in other parts of the state. Stallard is excited to use this moment in time to “get the community involved in protecting their own future” before it’s too late. We can all look forward to her excitement and energy as we confront the many challenges ahead.

The Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District also recently hired attorney Caroline Luna as its new general manager following Summer Webb’s amicable departure after many years of service in that role. Luna grew up in Pearsall, Texas. She got her undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University, where she met her husband, Ryan Luna, and then went on to study law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. She and her husband now live in Alpine with their three children.

Luna is also interested in the educational aspects of her job. When asked what drew her to the position, Luna stated that it “sounded like something that really lined up” with what she finds important: “to make the world the best world you can.” Although she is currently “in the drinking-from-the-fire-hose phase” of training, she is a “big believer in lifelong learning.” In her words, “I want for my investment of time to ensure equitable access to water and protect the resource for the future” by encouraging everyone “to become better stewards of the world the Lord gave us.” I think I speak for most readers of this column by affirming her commitment with a hearty, “Amen!”

Both women will figure prominently in upcoming efforts to create a common data management platform for the region with a new WaterSMART grant from the Bureau of Reclamation. Stay tuned for future issues of “Our Water Matters,” where we will continue to update you on all the water news that’s fit to print.

Trey Gerfers is a San Antonio native and serves as board chairman of the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District. He earns his living as a translator of technical documents from German to English for the German and Swiss pharmaceutical and medical-science industries. Trey has lived in Marfa since 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]