Texans who always dreamed of building their own home on a piece of land outside the big city, only to find out their dream might be shattered by a new state law restricting the drilling of new water wells, just got a break.
The Northern Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, a Fort Worth-based state agency that regulates private water wells in the rural areas outside the city, this week took action to allow many land owners to drill their wells.
The district board members, while upholding the Dec. 17 law prohibiting construction of a new water well within 200 feet of an existing well, approved an amendment that states anyone who had their land platted for residential construction prior to Dec. 17 would be grandfathered in and allowed to install a well.
The decision was a relief to property owners such as Greg Davis, owner of Capstone Construction, who for years has made a living buying vacant properties southwest of Fort Worth and building custom homes on them.
Davis’ saga was featured in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story last month. At that time, Davis feared that 16 of the 18 residential lots he owned in the Pyramid Acres neighborhood along U.S. 377 (between Benbrook and Cresson) would be worthless because they were less than 200 feet from an existing water well.
“I’m all about conserving water, but you can’t rob people of their investment and their livelihood,” Davis said during a visit to his properties 20 miles south of downtown Fort Worth.
Since then, Davis and many other property owners in the same boat banded together and lobbied the district board for relief.
Bob Patterson, general manager of Northern Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, said in February his agency wasn’t trying to stop development of residential areas. Instead, the group is trying to prevent the wells that already exist in southwest Fort Worth from running dry.
“We have water wells in that area that were getting 10 to 12 gallons a minute routinely, and now those same wells are getting less than three gallons a minute,” Patterson said in a phone interview. “We try to work with individual lot owners and try to help them find a way to drill a well in a way that will not interfere with their neighbor’s well.”
The amendment approved by the district board this week gives the district’s general manager discretion to waive the restrictions for those whose properties were configured or platted for residential development, as long as all the owners of a property sign a waiver request, and as long as the land isn’t further reconfigured or subdivided after the waiver is granted.
Going forward, however, property owners whose properties are reconfigured or platted after Dec. 17 will have to comply with the new rule — and will not be allowed to drill a new water well within 200 feet of an existing well.