Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated Mirasol Springs’ contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority was still under review. That contract has been approved.
HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Mirasol Springs, a 1,400-acre planned development on the border of Hays and Travis counties, will soon release its final plans for the area. Announced in 2021, the development is hoping to set the gold standard for conservation in the Hill Country. It’s also facing backlash from nearby landowners, who say the development will drain the nearby aquifer and decimate an “untouched” waterway in the area.
KXAN has been closely following the development since earlier this year. In an exclusive early look, Mirasol Capital, the group behind the development, detailed how it’s planning to supply water to homes in the community.
It said its plans will have a minimal impact on the groundwater. Landowners and hydrologists, however, disagree.
Mirasol Springs and the water plan
Mirasol Springs will be located over the Trinity Aquifer, running alongside the Pedernales River and bordering Roy Creek. The Roy Creek Canyon Reserve neighbors the property.
The development will consist of dozens of homes, an inn and a field lab for research that will be managed by the University of Texas. The team behind the project has defined water conservation and water quality as two key goals of the project.
According to Jim Truitt, director of Mirasol Capital, water design and planning around the project took two years. The developers got feedback from conservation experts in the community while developing the plan.
“We’ve seen the proposal for the development, and it has some really incredible stuff,” said Katherine Romans with the Hill Country Alliance. She said planning for water use is essential for the community.
“How can we think about how each new development that we see in our region minimizes its footprint on water to the extent possible,” Romans said.
Truitt told KXAN in a statement, “Our team recognizes the importance of this critical resource and the responsibility of designing a proactive water management system that will serve as a model for development in the Texas Hill Country.”
Key elements of the plan include:
- A reduction in an overall water use
- A conservation easement on the property that will reduce the amount of buildings on the property
- 100% rainwater capture along all rooftops
- Irrigation using collected rainwater
- Smart water systems in the inn to improve proficiency
- No private wells will be allowed on the property
Additionally, impervious cover, like roads and rooftops, will be limited on the property. No impervious structures will be built on the properties flood plain except for trails, bridges, boardwalks and stream crossings.
There will be a 150-foot buffer between construction and the flood plain.
The development will be drawing its water from four sources: Surface water collected from the Pedernales River and purchased through the Lower Colorado River Authority and treated wastewater that will be used for irrigation and rainwater collected from rooftops.
Truitt said “On the limited occasions when surface water contracted from the LCRA is not available, Mirasol Springs will utilize groundwater to service the demand for domestic use and limited irrigation.”
Groundwater will be collected from five wells on the property. This water will be drawn from the Middle Trinity Aquifer.
Permits have been filed for the construction of the wells with the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and Southwestern Travis County. Those filings are currently under review. Those filings estimate Mirasol Springs will use around 80,000 gallons of water per day.
Groundwater, the Pedernales River and Texas droughts
The developers told KXAN they will primarily rely on water from the Pedernales River. However, landowners in the area think that plan is shortsighted. The LCRA can suspend the contract during a drought.
“They’re talking about also drawing water from the Pedernales, but the Pedernales in its current state is not flowing,” said Lew Adams, landowner of the nearby Roy Creek Canyon Reserve.
Adams worries in times of drought, like the state is currently facing, the development will have to rely on groundwater. “We don’t know how the springs can survive or this canyon will survive with that volume of water being being drawn from the aquifer.”
Groundwater in the Hill Country isn’t isolated. “In some cases, you may see each gallon coming out of the well as having a one-to-one impact on the nearest spring,” Romans said.
Hydrologist Doug Wierman told KXAN the groundwater in Mirasol Springs acts this way. Any water drawn from the aquifer will have a direct impact on Roy Creek.
“What Mirasol decides to do, what they’re determined to do, will have a severe effect not only on this canyon, but can have effects on the neighbors and the watershed that they depend on,” Adams said.