Click Here to view the 2020-2025 Llano Estacado UWCD Management Plan

District Mission Statement

The Llano Estacado Underground Water Conservation District (the District) will develop, promote, and implement management strategies to provide for the conservation, preservation, protection, recharging, and prevention of waste of the groundwater resources, over which it has jurisdiction authority, for the benefit of the people that the District serves.

Time Period for this Plan

This plan becomes effective August 13, 2015, upon adoption by the Board of Directors (the Board) of the District and remains in effect until a revised plan is approved or until August 13, 2020, whichever is earlier.

Guiding Principles

The District was formed, and has been operated from its inception, with the guiding belief that the ownership and pumpage of groundwater is a private property right. The Board has adopted the principle of “education first” and regulation as a last resort in their effort to encourage conservation of the resource. As a result, the rules of the District were designed to give all landowners a fair and equal opportunity to use the groundwater resource underlying their property for beneficial purposes. If, at the request of the constituents of the District, more stringent management strategies are needed to better manage the resource, these strategies will be put in place after an extensive educational process and with the perceived majority approval of the constituents. The District will continue to monitor groundwater quality and quantity in order to better understand the dynamics of the aquifer systems over which it has jurisdiction.

This document is intended for use as a tool to provide continuity in the management of the District. District staff will use the plan as a guide to insure that all aspects of the goals of the District are accomplished. The Board will refer to it for future planning and as a document to measure performance of the District staff on an annual basis.

Conditions can change over time that may cause the Board to modify this document. The dynamic nature of this plan shall be maintained such that the District will continue to best serve the needs of the constituents. At the very least, the Board will review and readopt this plan every five years.

One’s goals, management objectives, and performance standards must be set at an attainable level in order to be realistic and effective. Lofty ideals penned in an effort to be “all things to all people” can be the first step toward disaster. Unreasonably elevated objectives foster potentially damaging results when the objective cannot be met due to a lack of resources; fiscal or technical. One’s goals can also be set too low. Simplistic ideals can foster mediocrity. In both cases, the mission of the goal setting entity is thwarted and the benefactors of the same slighted. Although well meaning, when the failure to attain a goal is realized by those measuring performance, the initial response is to assume that those setting the goals were negligent in performing their duties when, in truth, the goals were unattainable from the start.

In the opinion of the Board, the goals, management objectives, and performance standards put forth in this planning document have been set at a reasonable level considering existing and projected fiscal and technical resources. Conditions may change which could cause change in the management objectives defined to reach the stated goals. The following guidelines will be used to insure that the management objectives are set at a sufficient level to be realistic and effective:

• The District’s constituency will determine if the District’s goals are set at a level that is both meaningful and attainable; through their voting right, the public will appraise the District’s overall performance in the process of electing or re-electing Board members.
• The duly elected Board will guide and direct District staff and will gauge the achievement of the goals set forth in this document.
• The interests and needs of the District’s constituency shall control the direction of the management of the District.
• The Board will endeavor to maintain local control of the privately owned resource over which the District has authority.
• The Board will evaluate District activities on a fiscal year basis. That is, the District budgets operations on a October 1 - September 30 fiscal year. When considering stated goals, management objectives, and performance standards, any reference to the terms annual, annually, or yearly will refer to the fiscal year of the District.

General Description, Location and Extent

The District was created on May 24, 1991, when Governor Ann Richards signed HB 530, 72nd Legislature, into law. The District was confirmed, the Initial Board elected, and an ad valorem tax rate cap of $0.02/$100 valuation was set in an election held in November 1998. Table 1 lists the current Board of Directors, office held, occupation, and term.

Table 1: Board of Directors of the South Plains Underground Water Conservation

Table l: Board of Directors of the South Plains Underground Water Conservation District. Office



Term Ends


Jud Cheuvront

Active Farmer

May 2019


Weldon Shook

Active Farmer

May 2017


Walter Billings

Active Farmer

May 2019


Charles Rowland

Active Farmer

May 2017


Robert Warren

Active Farmer

May 2017

The jurisdictional extent of the District is the same as Gaines County and covers approximately 1525 square miles of the Southern High Plains of Texas. Seminole (pop. 7,027), the county seat, is the largest municipality in the District. Seagraves (pop. 2,620) and Loop (pop. 225) are the other incorporated communities in the District. 
The District is bordered on the north by the Sandy Land UWCD(Yoakum County) and South Plains UWCD(Terry and Hockley Counties), on the east by Mesa UWCD(Dawson County), on the south by Andrews County, and on the west by the State of New Mexico. 

The economy of the District is supported predominately by row crop agriculture and oil and gas production. The 317,000 plus acres of irrigated cropland (out of total row crop acreage of 650,000) affords economic stability to the area. The major crops cultivated within the District include cotton, peanuts, grain sorghum, wheat and corn; and, to a lesser extent, watermelons, sunflowers, alfalfa, and cucumbers.

Gaines County has long been known as the number one producer of oil and gas in the state. In 2014, companies produced over 23,000,000 barrels of crude oil in the county.

Topography and Drainage
The land surface in the District is a nearly level to very gently undulating plain. Deep, moderatelypermeable, sandy soils predominate the region.

Land surface elevation drops from 3,700 feet above sea level in the northwest corner of the District to 2,935 feet above sea level in the southeast corner of the District.

Several relic drainageways cross the District from northwest to southeast. These “draws” (Sulfur, McKenzie, Wordswell, Seminole, and Monument) are shallow and usually dry, seldom carrying runoff surface water.

Cedar Lake and McKenzie Lake are the largest salt lakes in the District. In periods of normal rainfall, McKenzie Lake occupies approximately 1,500 acres, and Cedar Lake, approximately 3,500 acres. The lakes are bordered by calcareous soils that support various salt – tolerant sedges and grasses. The soils around the lakes and in the lake bottoms are strongly affected by alkali and are not conducive to agricultural activities.

Playas, or shallow wet-weather lakes, are common in areas where fine sandy loam and sandy clay loam soil types prevail. Playas range in size from 2 to 10 acres and are important vectors for local aquifer recharge.

Groundwater Resources

The District has jurisdiction over all groundwater that lies within the District’s boundaries. Three aquifers, the Ogallala, the Cretaceous, and the Dockum occur within the District. The following is a description of geological formations that may be beneficial to District constituents by providing useable quantities of groundwater.

Ogallala Aquifer

The Ogallala Aquifer is the primary source of groundwater in the District. Saturated sections range from less than 10 feet to more than 180 feet in the area covered by the District.

The formation consists of heterogeneous sequences of clay, silt, sand and gravel. These sediments are thought to have been deposited by eastward flowing aggrading streams that filled and buried valleys eroded into pre-Ogallala rocks. A resistent layer of calcium carbonate-cemented caliche known locally as the “caprock” occurs near the surface of much of the area (Ashworth and Hopkins, 1995).

Water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer are primarily influenced by the rate of recharge to and discharge from the aquifer.  Recharge to the aquifer occurs primarily by infiltration of precipitation falling on the surface.  To a lesser extent, recharge may also occur by upward leakage from underlying Cretaceous units that, in places, have a higher potentiometric surface than the Ogallala.  Generally, only a small percentage of water from precipitation actually reaches the water table due to a combination of limited annual precipitation (15.8 inches per year), high evaporation rate (60 – 70 inches per year), and slow infiltration rate.
Groundwater in the aquifer generally flows from northwest to southeast, normally at right angles to water level contours.  Velocities of less than one foot per day are typical, but higher velocities may occur along filled erosional valleys where coarser grained deposits have greater permeabilities.
Discharge from the Ogallala aquifer within the District occurs through the pumping of wells; primarily irrigation wells.  Groundwater pumpage typically exceeds recharge and results in water-level declines (Ashworth and Hopkins, 1995).

The chemical quality of Ogallala groundwater varies greatly across the District. Total Dissolved Solids(TDS) values vary from less than 600 mg/L to over 6,000 mg/L. Generally, groundwater in the eastern and southeastern parts of the District exhibit the highest TDS. Isolated occurrence of high TDS concentrations elsewhere in the District may be due to pollution through oil field salt water disposal pits or upward leakage and mixing from the underlying Cretaceous aquifer.

The suitability of groundwater for irrigation purposes is largely dependent on the chemical composition of the water and is determined primarily by the total concentration of soluble salts. Some farm acreage in the District is already limited to certain varieties of salt tolerant crops due to limiting or damaging total salt levels.

Cretaceous Aquifer

The Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) aquifer, commonly referred to as the Cretaceous Aquifer, underlies the Ogallala Aquifer in the northern half of the District (Fig. 3). In some areas of the District, the Cretaceous and Ogallala Aquifers may be hydrologically connected. Groundwater in the Cretaceous is generally fresh to slightly saline. Water quality deteriorates where Cretaceous formations are overlain by saline lakes.

Recharge of the Cretaceous occurs directly from the bounding Ogallala formation. Some upward movement of groundwater from the underlying Triassic Dockum formation may occur (Ashworth and Hopkins, 1995). As mentioned earlier, in many places the potentiometric surface of groundwater in the Cretaceous Aquifer is higher than the Ogallala Aquifer, resulting in the upward leakage from the Cretaceous Aquifer. Movement of water in the Cretaceous is generally east to southeast.

Dockum Aquifer

The Dockum Aquifer underlies the Cretaceous and Ogallala formations throughout the District.The primary water-bearing zone in the Dockum group, commonly called the “Santa Rosa”, consists of up to 700 feet of sand and conglomerate interbedded with layers of silt and shale (Ashworth and Hopkins, 1995). Aquifer permeability is typically low and well yields normally do not exceed 300 gal/min.

Water quality in the Dockum is the main limiting factor when considering its use within the District (Ashworth and Hopkins, 1995). Electrical conductance (EC) values for Dockum groundwater range from 15.0 decisiemens/meter (dS/m) to over 50.0 dS/m. Even the most salt tolerant row crops grown cannot withstand such levels of salinity.

Thus, the only practical use of Dockum groundwater may be for make-up water in secondary recovery operations of crude oil. By using water from this aquifer, oil companies could reduce their use of Ogallala and/or Cretaceous groundwater, thereby relieving some pumpage pressure from the freshwater sources.

Surface Water Resources

The only fresh surface water occurring within the District are playa lakes. The playas play an important role in aquifer recharge and support some wildlife when rainfall events are significant enough to cause runoff to accumulate in these naturally occurring depressions. Playas are rarely, if ever, used to support irrigation activities.

As previously mentioned, Cedar Lake and McKenzie Lake are naturally occurring salt lakes within the District. Each of these naturally occurring impoundments support limited wildlife populations, primarily migratory waterfowl and associated opportunistic predators.

Total Amount of Groundwater Potentially Available for Use

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) estimated in 2013 that the total recoverable amount of groundwater in the Ogallala and Edwards-Trinity aquifer underlying Gaines County, Texas, was approximately 14.1 million acre-feet (GAM Task 13-026, 2013). The total useable amount of groundwater underlying the county in 2013 was, of course, dependent on the category of use because of quality and pumping depths limitations. That is, several areas within the county were thought to have had groundwater quality problems severe enough to preclude its use for any purpose. However, for the purposes of this plan, to meet the requirements of 36.1072(e)(3)(A), Texas Water Code, and until more accurate data becomes available, we will assume that all of the groundwater underlying the county was useable in 2013 even though we suspect that not to be the case. Please note that the information shown should be used only as a guide, and becomes less and less representative of actual conditions the further one looks into the future.

Management of Groundwater Resources

The District will endeavor to manage groundwater resources over which it has jurisdiction in order to conserve the resource while seeking to maintain the economic viability of the District’s constituents. A water level monitoring network will be established in order to track changes in the total volume of groundwater in storage each year. Likewise, a water quality monitoring network will be established in order to track water quality changes each year. The District willemploy all technical resources at its disposal to monitor and evaluate the groundwater resource. Programs to encourage conservation of groundwater will be designed and implemented as need dictates.

In October 1999, the Board, after notice and hearing, adopted the rules of the District. The rules address conservation of the groundwater resources of the District through: well permitting, well spacing, well registration, well completion, pumping limitations, open well capping, and standards for plugging wells. As conditions dictate, and with the approval of the constituents of the District, the Board will consider the modification of the rules to further the mission of the District. When considering modification or enforcement of the rules, the Board will base its decisions on the best technical evidence available. All constituents will be treated equally and fairly when applying the rules of the District. The link to the District’s website is: www.llanoestacadouwcd.org/rules.html.

Actions, Procedures, Performance and Avoidance for Plan Implementation

The District will implement the provisions of this plan and will utilize the provisions of this plan as a guidepost for determining the direction or priority for all District activities. All operations of the District, all agreements entered into by the District and any additional planning efforts in which the District may participate will be consistent with the provisions of this plan.

The District has rules relating to the permitting of wells and the production of groundwater. The rulesadopted by the District shall be pursuant to TWC § 36 and the provisions of this plan. All rules will beadhered to and enforced. The promulgation and enforcement of the rules will be based on the best technical evidence available.

The District shall treat all citizens with equality. Citizens may apply to the District for discretion in enforcement of the rules on grounds of adverse economic effect or unique local conditions. In granting of discretion to any rule, the Board shall consider the potential for adverse effect on adjacent landowners. The exercise of said discretion by the District Board shall not be construed as limiting the power of the District Board.

The District will seek the cooperation in the implementation of this plan and the management of groundwater supplies within the District. All activities of the District will be undertaken in cooperation and coordinated with the appropriate state, regional or local management entity.

Drought Contingency Plan

Drought is a normal, recurrent feature of climate, although many erroneously consider it a rare and random event. Drought is also a temporary aberration, and differs from aridity, which is restricted to low rainfall regions and is a permanent feature of climate (“What is Drought?, National Drought Mitigation Center”). The Llano Estacado Underground Water Conservation District is in an arid region that also experiences drought. However, even in the midst of a drought, rainfall at crucial times of the growing season may significantly reduce irrigation water demand.

Drought response conservation measures typically used in other regions of Texas (i.e. rationing) cannot and are not used in this region due to extreme economic impact potential. In the District, groundwater conservation is stressed at all times. The Board recognizes that irrigated agriculture provides the economic stability to the communities within the District. Therefore, through the notice and hearing provisions required in the development and adoption of this management plan, the Board adopts the official position that, in times of precipitation shortage, irrigated agricultural producers will not be limited to any less usage of groundwater than is provided for by District rules.

In order to treat all other groundwater user groups fairly and equally, the District will encourage more stringent conservation measures, where practical, but likewise, will not limit groundwater use in anyway not already provided for by District rules.

Regional Water Planning

The Board of Directors recognizes the regional water plan requirements listed in Ch. 36, TWC, 36.1071. Namely, the District’s management plan must be forwarded to the regional water planning group for their consideration in their planning process, and the plan must address water supply needs such that there is no conflict with the approved regional water plan. It is the Board’s belief that no such conflict exists.

The Board agrees that the regional water plan should include the District’s best data. The Board also recognizes that the regional water planning process provides a necessary overview of the region’s water supply and needs. However, the Board also believes it is the duty of the District to develop the best and most accurate information concerning groundwater within the District.

Legislative Activity

The 75th Texas Legislature officially recognized groundwater districts as the preferred method of managing groundwater resources (36.0015, Texas Water Code). Since its inception, the District has attempted to communicate with national and state lawmakers to ensure that the property rights and other groundwater related interests of its constituents are protected. The Board will continue to support the District’s participation in the legislative process, to the greatest extent fiscally possible, to ensure that the interests of the District’s constituency are represented. The District will attempt to keep the constituents informed of legislative activities through news releases, newsletters, and public speaking engagements.
LEUWCD Management Plan-Page 20

Weather Modification

The District participated in a weather modification program from 2002 - 2012. The District was a participant in the Southern Ogallala Aquifer Rainfall Enhancement (SOAR) program, which was administered by the Sandy Land UWCD.

The Llano Estacado UWCD Board of Directors believes that weather modification is a management tool that can help relieve some pressure from our groundwater resources. Rainfall at crucial points of the growing season may mean significantly less groundwater used for irrigation. Additionally, the hopes that the benefits of convective cloud seeding will contribute to enhanced recharge of the groundwater resources.

Weather modification operation were suspended in 2013 due to insufficient operational area.

Goals, Management Objectives and Performance Standards

Method for Tracking the District’s Progress in Achieving Management Goals

The District Manager will prepare an annual report of the District’s performance achieving management goals and objectives. The report will be prepared in a format that will be reflective of the performance standards listed following each management objective. The report will be presented to the Board within 60 days of the end of each fiscal year. The report will be maintained on file in the open records of the District.

The District will actively enforce all rules of the District in order to conserve, preserve, protect and prevent the waste of the groundwater resources over which the District has jurisdictional authority. The Board will periodically review the District’s rules, and may modify the rules, with public approval, to better manage the groundwater resources within the District and to carry out the duties prescribed in Chapter 36, Texas Water Code.

Goal 1.0 Providing the Most Efficient Use of Groundwater

Goal 2.0 Controlling and Preventing Waste of Groundwater

Goal 3.0 Addressing Drought Conditions

Goal 4.0 Addressing Conservation

Goal 5.0 Addressing Rainwater Harvesting

Goal 6.0 Addressing Precipitation Enhancement

Goal 7.0 Controlling and Preventing Subsidence

Goal 8.0 Addressing Conjunctive Surface Water Management Issues

Goal 9.0 Addressing Natural Resource Issues

Goal 10.0 Addressing Recharge Enhancement

Goal 11.0 Addressing Brush Control

Goal 12.0 Addressing Desired Future Condition of the Aquifers