After losing a 26,000 acre feet per year water contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the White Stallion Energy Center, a 1200 MW proposed coal plant for Matagorda County, Texas has had to scramble to find other sources of water. As a result, the developers announced a costly design change that they claim will reduce their water needs, but still require the equivalent of almost 1 billion gallons of water per year (about 3,000 acre feet). To meet this demand without a contract from LCRA, White Stallion has quickly turned to private landowners in Matagorda County in an attempt to gain access to groundwater. So far, most of the smart people of Matagorda County have not sold their private water, and the few sellers the coal plant’s developers have identified are not selling enough to meet White Stallion’s water needs.
Most critically, not only is the groundwater supply that the developer has identified not sufficient to meet White Stallion’s needs, but groundwater is also an unreliable water supply for a baseload utility planning to operate in a drought-prone state. The Coastal Plains Groundwater Conservation District (CPGCD), which manages groundwater for the area, adopted amendments to their rules on June 29th, 2012 to allow them to better manage and respond to aquifer conditions such as the ongoing historical drought. In order to protect the health of the aquifer for future generations, the District has implemented a curtailment scheme that will be implemented based on aquifer conditions (Subchapter B: Production Limits, Section 6.11.c, page 53). This is a proactive and sustainable approach to groundwater management and is meant to ensure the viability of the aquifer for future generations.
What does this mean for White Stallion and other permitees? If aquifer conditions reach triggers laid out in the rules, anyone who applied for a water permit or amended their permit for a different use after 2011 would be required to restrict their pumping by up to 80%. Since both of the landowners who have agreed to sell their water to White Stallion meet these criteria, only 600 acre feet of water per year is “guaranteed” during times where aquifer levels are low. Furthermore, all permits, under the CPGCD’s rules, are only valid for 3 years at a time- all permits are up for renewal every 3 years (Subchapter B: Application Requirements and Processing, Section 3.15.a, page 27).
Given the severity of the Texas drought in the past and its ongoing nature, it’s possible we will see curtailment in the future. Does this seem like a good investment to you?
-Lydia Avila, Associate Field Representative