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Clearwater learns more about proposed pond plan

New details about a series of groundwater-supplied "vanity ponds" being proposed for a northern Williamson County development project came to light this week.

The ponds, which have caused concern among leaders of Bell County's groundwater conservation district, are planned to be drawn out of the Trinity Aquifer using wells located in an active quarry near Florence.

On Tuesday, geoscientist Randy Williams informed Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District board members about the location, saying he has been told the ponds would likely be created in the quarry site once it was decommissioned. Such information led Clearwater board member Judy Parker to question the idea.

"You're sitting in a quarry that sits in the Edwards Aquifer," Parker said. "You take Trinity water and fill up the quarry. Is it not going to seep into the Edwards?"

"There is a potential," Williams responded.

Williams said there are still many unknown variables in the project that he is working to clarify with the developer's engineers.

"At this point, since we don't know what their plans are, they could have some redundant engineering solutions to mitigate the potential," he said, referring to seepage.

Tuesday's discussion comes as Clearwater moves forward with requesting a contested case hearing on the pond project's water-use permit that has been submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The concern from Clearwater centers on whether the volume of groundwater that would be pumped could impact aquifer levels in Bell County.

The permit is being sought by Southwest Land Services, a Leander-based development company looking to build the ponds roughly 10 miles south of the Bell County line near State Highway 195. The water sources, also called "aesthetic enhancement ponds," would cover approximately 50 acres, have a combined storage capacity of 617-acre feet and be built as part of a mixed-use master-planned community, according to the permit.

The president of Southwest Land Services, David Singleton, could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

In addition to Clearwater, the Brazos River Authority has also requested a contested case hearing on the permit. In a Jan. 13 letter to the TCEQ, BRA seemed to recognize some may disagree with the project's use of water.

"BRA recognizes that the applicant proposes use of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer to ensure that operations under the proposed junior water rights do not impair existing or senior rights, such as the BRA's," the letter reads. "BRA further recognizes that many would argue that use of groundwater for this purpose in "vanity ponds" does not constitute a beneficial use of groundwater, and the BRA neither supports nor opposes such arguments. BRA does insist, however, that any permit issued must not impair existing rights."

Williams said he is working with the engineer for Southwest Land Services to perform a pumping test that will more accurately gauge drawdown levels from the ponds' wells. That information will be used to study whether the project could impact the desired future conditions of groundwater sources in Bell County.

Williams said Clearwater board members can hopefully use the test's results to determine if they want to move forward with requesting the contested case hearing from TCEQ.

Contact Andy Ross at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (254) 501-7468.