Lew Adams, owner of the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve, said conditions in the canyon are similar to those during the 2011 drought. (Eric Henrikson/KXAN Photo)
Lew Adams, owner of the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve, said conditions in the canyon are similar to those during the 2011 drought. (Eric Henrikson/KXAN Photo)

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — What’s been called one of Texas’ “best kept secrets,” the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve, has been feeling the drought as much as the rest of the state. Landowner Lew Adams said it’s the worst condition the reserve has been in since 2011.

The drought isn’t the only thing that’s worrying Lew. A new development, Mirasol Springs, that’s planning to build on the land around the canyon recently filed permits to construct new water wells.

It’s been more than six months since KXAN last visited the canyon. “Its significantly changed,” Adams said.

“The water level has fallen several feet. The waterfalls, there’s two beautiful waterfalls that run here regularly, and they’re not flowing at all.”

According to Lew, the only thing supporting the water level at its current level is a “tiny trickle” from the nearby spring.

“I can really remember back to the 1950s when we had, you know, probably the most severe drought on record. And it was even lower than this,” Adams said. His family has owned the canyon for 80 years.

Before: The Roy Creek Canyon Reserve during a wet year. (Courtesy: Lew Adams)After: The water level has dropped significantly in the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve because of the drought. (Courtesy: Eric Henrikson/KXAN)
Between January 2022 and August 2022, the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve has seen water levels fall and the waterfalls dry up.

During that drought, he recalls watching the cattle on the land around the canyon being shipped off. Several hundred year old trees on the property died.

The same thing happened during the 2011 drought. Their stumps still line the property.

New water wells in a time of drought

Despite the current conditions, Adams is more concerned with a new filing by Mirasol Capital, the group behind a 1,400 acre “conservation-scale” development called Mirasol Springs.

The development has been in the planning stage for the past couple of years and sits on the Hays-Travis County line. The majority of the land is in Hay County.

Earlier this year, the development filed permits with the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the organization that oversees well permits in Hays County, and with the Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District, which oversees permits in Travis County.

Before: Waterfalls were a common site in Roy Creek Canyon during wet years. (Courtesy: Frank Martinez/KXAN)After: The waterfalls that usually fill up the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve have vanished during the drought. (Courtesy: Frank Martinez/KXAN)
Before: Waterfalls were a common site in Roy Creek Canyon during wet years. After: All of the canyons waterfalls have vanished. (Courtesy: Frank Martinez/KXAN)

The developers requested five water wells, one in Travis County and four in Hay County, to be built as part of the development.

“What is most concerning to us, looking at the Mirasol development, is the amount of groundwater they’re talking about pulling from the aquifer,” Adams said.

According to the permits obtained by KXAN, the development estimates between irrigation and residential needs, demand will be around 89.67 acre feet of water per year. That’s around 80,000 gallons of water per day.

This water will be collected from several sources: the nearby Pedernales River, rainwater collection, treated wastewater and the five groundwater wells.

According to Jim Truitt, director of Mirasol Capital, “The goal of the project is to significantly limit the use of groundwater through conservation, including the use of reclaimed water and harvested rainwater to meet non-potable water demands.”

Before: Roy Creek Canyon's water level in January 2022 (Courtesy: Frank Martinez/KXAN)After: Roy Creek Canyon in August 2022, after months of drought. (Courtesy: Frank Martinez/KXAN)
The water levels have dropped significantly in Roy Creek during the 2022 drought.

Mirasol Springs plans to draw water from the Pedernales River, but that contract can be suspended by the LCRA during a drought.

“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,” Truitt said.

Water wells impact on Roy Creek

Mirasol Springs’ wells will tap into the Middle Trinity Aquifer, which supplies water to the springs that feed the Roy Creek Canyon Reserve.

“It’s 90% fed by spring. This sustainability, it depends on the springs,” Adams said.

Hydrologist Doug Wierman served on the board of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District from 2004 to 2010. He said during his studies of the Roy Creek area, he found the spring shed is fairly confined.

“We know enough about the configuration of the aquifers that pumping groundwater will have an impact on the springs,” Wierman said.

While Mirasol Springs hopes it doesn’t have to rely on the wells, situations like this year’s drought may not make that possible. The company is taking additional steps to limit water usage. For instance, private wells will not be allowed on the property.