Drought Update from Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District

Drought Update

July 20, 2022

Drought conditions in the Texas Hill Country continue to worsen as we have received an average of 11.4 inches – 6 inches behind annual average rainfall – from January through mid-July (Figure 1). Only the month of February recorded above average rainfall. Water levels in the Edwards began to decline on March 11. Trinity levels also began to decline in early April. Falling trends in both aquifers continue.

Figure 1. Monthly deviation from avg. and monthly total rainfall in BSEACD territory

La Nina persists and has high probability to remain with us into Fall and early winter. This means that we are predicted to receive below average rainfall and above average heat through the summer and into the winter. May and June, which are historically the wettest months of the year in Central Texas, were both way below their historical monthly average (-2.8 & -2.7 respectively). In fact, both May and June 2022 clocked in as the warmest on record for Austin.

On July 19, the Lovelady well (Figure 2) had a level of 470.2 ft msl, 8.2 ft below the trigger level for Stage 2 Drought. Lovelady crossed under its trigger on May 26.

Figure 2. Lovelady monitoring well water elevation level

On July 19, Barton Springs (Figure 3) was flowing at 29 cfs (10-day average), 9 cfs below the Stage 2 Drought trigger point of 38 cfs. Barton Springs crossed under the Stage 2 Drought trigger in late June. USGS and BSEACD staff continue to make discharge measurements to ensure accurate stage-discharge real-time reporting.

Figure 3. Barton Springs flow

Aquifer science staff are closely monitoring ongoing drought conditions in both the Edwards and Trinity Aquifers. Historic hydrograph data (Figure 4) show that the 2022 drought began with aquifer levels in some portions of the Trinity already approaching historic lows. If drought conditions worsen in the coming months, levels could drop well below those historic lows. This has potential for widespread negative impacts to domestic and non-exempt wells, and reduction of Trinity spring flows in the Blanco River Basin.

Figure 4.

As we lean into the hottest and driest months of the year, already in Stage 2 Alarm Drought, the District encourages continued conservation. Now is a great time to brush up and double down on water conservation measures. Check out this great list of water saving tips from The Texas Water Development Board. The District could declare Stage 3 Critical Drought in the coming weeks if conditions continue to worsen.

Figure 5.

Meanwhile, the Texas Water Development Board’s latest Water Weekly report shows that months of below-average precipitation and above-average temperature have driven the area of the state impacted by drought to its largest value since July 2013 (Figure 5). A modest increase in drought next week will result in the largest extent of drought since January 2012.

What can you do to conserve? Generally, restricting outdoor water use, including limiting landscape irrigation, pool filling and refilling, and non-essential water use such as water fountains, are easy ways to conserve water. It’s also best to only water your lawns once a week during the early morning hours. You can find more conservation tips for both indoor and outdoor conservation here.

The District recommends that both exempt and permitted well owners follow these conservation tips. For additional information on groundwater wells, please take a look at the District’s Well Owner Guide. If you have questions about your well, please contact us at 512-282-8441. We encourage you to call or visit our office (1124 Regal Row, Austin, TX) during office hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to review our groundwater management process, receive information about the drought, or if you need assistance with other groundwater related matters.

Check out our newly created drought information page. We will frequently update this page.

Other useful links:

BSEACD is a groundwater conservation district charged by the Texas Legislature to preserve, conserve, and protect the aquifers and groundwater resources within its jurisdiction, which includes parts of three central Texas counties. It is governed by a Board of five elected directors and staffed with hydrogeologists, groundwater regulatory compliance specialists, environmental educators, geospatial systems specialists, and administrative support personnel.



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Aquifer District Declares Stage II Alarm Drought

For Immediate Release: June 9, 2022
For more information, contact: David Marino, Communications & Outreach Manager at (512) 282-8441 or dmarino@bseacd.org

On June 9, 2022, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s Board of Directors declared Stage II Alarm Drought at its regular Board Meeting. The District’s drought triggers, Lovelady Monitor Well and Barton Springs, passed below their drought triggers in late May and early June respectively. Only one of the two drought stage triggers needs to be reached for a drought declaration to be made. However, to exit a drought stage, both Barton Springs and Lovelady must rise above their respective drought trigger values. This latter requirement keeps the District from making multiple declarations about drought over short periods of time.

The last groundwater drought declaration commenced on October 9, 2020, and ended on July 8, 2021. While the weather is getting warmer, strengthening La Niña (dry) conditions indicates it may be getting drier. So far, we have received below average rainfall every month this year except for February and above average heat. May 2022 was the warmest May on record for Austin. The average temperature in May was 82.3 degrees. That number was calculated by combining the high and low for each day.

Declaration of Stage II Alarm Drought requires all District permittees to implement mandatory measures specified in their User Drought Contingency Plans (UDCPs) to meet monthly pumpage reduction requirements.

  • 20% for Edwards Historical and Conditional Class A permittees,
  • 50% for Edwards Conditional Class B permittees,
  • 100% for Edwards Conditional Class C and Class D permittees, and
  • 20% for Trinity and Alluvial/Austin Chalk Historical permittees

End-user customers served by water utilities on groundwater wells are required to comply with their utility’s water use restrictions for this drought stage. Generally, restricting outdoor water use, including limiting landscape irrigation, pool filling and refilling, and non-essential water use such as water fountains, is sufficient to reach monthly pumpage targets for Stage II Alarm Drought. July is the first month that permittees will need to meet reductions in pumpage. Permittees should refer to the monthly drought allocations listed in their User Drought Conservation Plan (UDCP) and Drought Target Charts.

The District encourages continued conservation, with July and August often being the hottest and driest times of the year. In the summer months, outdoor water use is significantly higher and can account for 60% or more of home water use. Planting native or drought-tolerant landscapes, mulching, and using compost can substantially reduce the amount of irrigation water required to keep plants healthy.

Making sure your irrigation system is functioning at peak efficiency and replacing leaking gaskets and hoses can help conserve water. Installing a rain barrel or rainwater harvesting system can make an even bigger impact in reducing overall water use.

Useful links:

Drought Media Tool-Kit: https://bseacd.org/drought-edu/
Press Release archive: http://bseacd.org/publications/press-releases/
Drought Status page: http://bseacd.org/aquifer-science/drought-status/
Drought Management page: http://bseacd.org/regulatory/drought-management/

The video below also explains Stage II Alarm Drought: