Groundwater Sustainability: Merely An Illusion?
University of Texas, Austin
This paper discusses the challenge of seeking groundwater sustainability in a real regulatory setting involving irrigated agriculture and competing water uses. The state of Texas has for the past five years been asking regional groundwater management areas (GMAs) that each include multiple groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) to use groundwater models and public participation to set the ?desired future conditions? for their regional aquifer use. The experience of using public processes to weigh current use, future growth, vs. sustainability raises questions whether ?sustainability? is a feasible goal for science and policy. This paper presents the experience of the authors in working with nine GCDs within a GMA (the so-called GMA #9 of the Texas Hill Country) to establish ?desired? future aquifer conditions. This experience is set in the context of the other 15 efforts within Texas towards regional aquifer management rules, using both science and public participation. The paper closes with some speculation on the challenges that any regional groundwater authority may face in seeking sustainable groundwater use.