BELTON — Bell County groundwater levels dropped more than 100 feet over the last seven years, according to a recent study from environmental consulting company LBG-Guyton Associates.

Mike Keester, a senior hydrologist for LBG-Guyton, presented the findings Tuesday at the Bell County Water Symposium at the Central Texas Council of Governments building.

The decline is due to increased demand from new and existing wells. The majority of Bell County’s commercial water wells are in the southwestern portion of the county near State Highway 195.

Despite decreases in groundwater, Bell County is not in danger of running out, another speaker said.

FME News Service

“We plan out our water need to 2060,” said Brenner Brown, manager of the Brazos region for the Texas Water Development Board’s state water planning team. The Brazos region stretches from the Texas-Oklahoma border to Brenham and includes Bell County.

The water development board uses population projections, devised within the agency, to plan for future water needs, Brown said.

“We’re within 1 or 2 percentage points of the population predictions,” he said. “And that’s with all the recent growth. The people who make those projections are very good.”

Although much of the recent growth has occurred in larger cities in Texas, the Water Development Board remains committed to the rural towns throughout the state, Brown said.

“It’s important to maintain the small towns,” he said. “They are fundamental to the culture of Texas. De-population is occurring in some places, but we don’t want to lose small towns completely.”

One of the difficulties that will face Texas residents moving forward is the retention and development of available surface water, said Trey Buzbee, a business manager with the Brazos River Authority.

“The past may not equal the future,” he said. “All the easy projects are gone and all the best sites are gone.”

Because of additional location difficulty, engineering future reservoirs will be “costly and complicated,” Buzbee said. Constructing reservoirs, treatment plants and pipelines in less than ideal locations could result in increased regulatory oversight and could result in resistance from local residents, he said.

“We’ll be building where people don’t want treatment plants, reservoirs or pipelines near their houses,” Buzbee said.

An additional problem facing water managers are the competing demands placed on area reservoirs.

“There are homeowners who purchased houses near the reservoir and they expect a certain level of water to add value to their home,” Buzbee said.

He addressed concerns about the pipeline from Lake Belton to Stillhouse Hollow Lake and whether it could contribute to the spread of zebra mussels.

The pipeline is still in the evaluation phase, Buzbee said. There has been no development or design work done on the project.

“We’ll be meeting soon to talk about the design and we’ll see if there is a way to keep the zebra mussels in Belton Lake,” Buzbee said.

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