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Our Water Source is Still a Puzzle

By December 24, 2017Water Sources

We don’t have a clear water source on our property in Smithville, Texas. Or electricity. Its like bicycle touring! Our incredible neighbors have let us use their kitchen, shower, tools, generator and heater or air conditioning– depending on what the Texas weather does.

While we’re a living part-time in Austin, we aim to be full timers in Smithville…by Summer 2018? I hope its sooner, but we have major construction projects to figure out. Then attack. Then accomplish. Patience is necessary.

Some scrap rain gutters we plan to retrofit to anything with a roof!

One big puzzle is our water source. We will collect rainwater on any and all structures (outhouse, firewood rack, cabin), but that is not likely to sustain our needs. Texas and the Western USA are entering into a period of La Niña…we need to expect dry conditions and prepare for drought.

The Big Unknown

There is an old well on the property. Rumor has it, the water well was drilled by an oil and gas company in the 1950’s. It sat uncapped, wide open for years. This means leaves, dirt, and who knows what else could be trapped in there. When we got back from the Mississippi River bicycle tour we recapped the well with a very official pink bowl and rock.

Sarah shows off our state of the art well cap.

James Totten, General Manager of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, came out to test the well in search of water. As you see in the video we reach what we think is water at 58 feet!

Well spoiler alert for the next video – it wasn’t water.

We aren’t giving up hope yet. It’s time to troubleshoot!

I asked James what aquifer would be 58 feet below our feet. A huge aquifer system in Texas is called the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, but that’s the easy name for it. There are multiple layers made of different materials that capture the water in separate  aquifer layers. James believes our well could be one of the more shallow aquifers. It’s made up of layers of clay and silt with sand beds at the bottom.


Underground Water Source

water source, texas aquifer groundwater science water

The dark and light red bands show the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. Its massive! [Credit to Texas Almanac]

The Carrizo-Wilcox formation is expected to contain hundreds of millions of acre-feet of water. No one truly knows though. Regardless, it is in high demand for the growing state. Smithville proper relies on the Carrizo-Wilcox for their water source, but our neighbors are not on a central water system. Everyone on our road has their own wells. Some are metered, most are not.

A recent, infamous water project was passed by the city of San Antonio, Texas to pull water from this very same aquifer. Developers pushed hard for the Vista Ridge Pipeline in the city of 1.5 million people. San Antonio has relied on one water source – the Edwards Aquifer – since forever. San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has been a pioneer for conservation programs and technology, but that pattern has slipped.

Eventually, developers won over and the pipeline was passed by city council to extend 142 miles away. Over the next 30 years, water ratepayers will be charged $2.8 billion for pipeline construction, well field development, etc. Residents at the pipeline’s source in Burleson County are only leasing their rights…

The old pump house, cistern, and a handstand. Well head is on the right.

I could go on about this project. The point is that this high stakes pipeline is reminiscent of the water wars to come in Texas.

Patrick and I want to diversify our water sources with the well, rainwater catchment, and a whole lot of conservation. Less is better!

So far our outhouse will be saving 1.6 – 2.5 gallons per flush! It’s a start.

Soon we’ll reveal what we really found in the well…and our plans to reach the water.






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