More Austinites are drilling private wells to keep their lawns lush, Statesman.com reports. Due to the $18,000 to $32,000 price tag of digging your own well, the majority of these homeowners are in the most exclusive areas of town and have houses valued at $2 million or more and lots that are over half an acre.
As the drought grew worse last year and Austin tightened restrictions on water usage, 2011 saw 47 new water wells dug in Austin. Almost all of these wells are in tony West Austin neighborhoods such as Pemberton Heights, Tarrytown and Balcones. Homeowners are eager to spend the thousands of dollars on the wells to keep up their giant carefully manicured lawns and landscaping.
Many of the wells are dug by Bee Cave Drilling into the largely unprotected northern segment of the Edwards Aquifer and leave homeowners able to tap into an unlimited amount of water. They can kiss their incredibly high water bills goodbye and run their sprinklers as much as they want. In fact, many of the homes now have signs posted announcing that their yard is watered by private well so neighbors don’t report them for violating city watering restrictions.
A city permit is not even necessary to dig a well and homeowners don’t have to report how much aquifer water they use. However, Water Utility management is concerned about the long-term impact of residential drilling. One of the biggest concerns is that once people have paid such huge sums of money for a well, there isn’t an incentive to save water. And spending such a precious natural resource on something as unnecessary and purely ornamental as a beautiful lawn is dangerous and could encourage others to waste even more water on their own landscaping.
Drilling companies are even seeing inquiries from school districts and apartment complexes eager to save money on water. If the trend grows, it could be a real problem for the aquifer and could, as John Dupnik, a senior regulatory compliance specialist for the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, says “eventually be the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts.”