BSEACD Aquifer District eNews – Fall 2020

Fall 2020 eNews

Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District

Topics: Drought Update, Ruby Ranch ASR Approved, Stop Spooky Leaks



The Travis and Hays County Hill Country has received approximately 37 inches of rainfall so far in 2020, 3 inches more than Austin’s annual average. In September we received more than 7 inches of rainfall, almost 5 inches above the September monthly average, that produced runoff and recharge to the aquifers within the District. Presently creeks are mostly dry, water levels are declining, and Barton Springs is flowing less than 38 cubic feet per second (cfs). So, with above-average annual rainfall and a very wet September, how can we be in drought? Current BSEACD Drought Status

In fact, we received a call late last week from a groundwater user pointing out that the local news showed Travis and Hays counties in “no drought” conditions on a Texas Drought Monitor Map. They asked why the BSEACD just entered official Alarm Stage II drought on October 8th while our area drought monitor maps show “no drought” and we’ve experienced above-average rainfall this year.

It’s important to understand that changes in the amount of groundwater in an aquifer generally lag behind the visible effects of weather at ground surface for a variety of reasons. Drought is defined as “a period of drier-than-normal conditions that result in water-related problems.” However, there are several varieties of drought. The kind most people are familiar with is just one type called meteorological drought—a rainfall deficit effecting the landscape. However, over time the lack of rain produces agricultural and ultimately hydrological droughts. Droughts that affect the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer and the Trinity Aquifers can be best characterized as hydrological, but more specifically groundwater droughts.

Groundwater droughts, by the very nature of the hydrologic cycle, often have a time-lag response to high rainfall, or lack of rainfall, conditions. The District utilizes flow from Barton Springs and water levels in the Lovelady monitor wellto indicate overall storage and drought status of the aquifer. Barton Springs is the primary natural discharge point and is a good measure of the overall health of the aquifer system. However, like a stream, Barton Springs can be highly sensitive to relatively minor and localized rainfall events. We saw this in early September when Barton Springs responded to over 7 inches of rainfall quickly, jumping to flow rate above its drought trigger. Conversely, the Lovelady well has a muted response to minor rainfall, but is a good measure of overall storage of groundwater in the aquifer (Figure 1). Water levels have responded to the recharge by decreasing at a slower rate than before the rains.

Figure 1. Stage II Alarm Drought, Sept. – Oct. 2020.  The BSEACD declared drought on October 2020 when both Barton Springs and the Lovelady monitor well were under their respective Stage II Drought triggers. This illustrates that Barton Springs responded to rainfall events in September (shaded area), but those events did not result in significant increases in storage within the aquifer as represented by water levels in the Lovelady well.

For the District to declare drought conditions, either spring flow or the Lovelady water levels need to be below their respective drought thresholds. However, to exit a drought stage, both spring flow and water level 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. A good example occurred in 2014 when the District officially remained in Alarm Drought Stage II from July 2014 through January 2015 (Figure 2). During that period Barton Springs temporarily responded to two large rain events. However, that did not result in significant increases in recharge and storage as indicated by water levels in the Lovelady well.

Figure 2. Period of Stage II Alarm Drought from 2014.  The BSEACD declared drought in July 2014 and then exited drought conditions in early 2015. This also illustrates that Barton Springs responded to rainfall events, but did not result in significant increases in storage within the aquifer as represented by water levels in the Lovelady well.

Unfortunately, the short and long-term forecasts for our area are looking pretty dry. The BSEACD joins other Central Texas Groundwater Conservation Districts like the Edwards Aquifer Authority and Hays Trinity GCD in implementing water use curtailments as these dry conditions persist. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has issued a La Niña advisory, which usually brings drier-than-average conditions and above-average temperatures to the southern United States. With La Niña conditions forecasted to last until February 2021, and aquifer levels already in Stage II Alarm Drought and continuing to decline, it is paramount that we practice proper conservation techniques to brace for both meteorological and hydrological drought.

On January 3, 2020, Ruby Ranch Water Supply Corporation (RRWSC) filed an application with the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) for a Class D Conditional Edwards Permit for the design and implementation of an Aquifer Storage & Recovery (ASR) project. ASR is the injection (through a well) and storage of water in a suitable aquifer formation during times when water is available, and the recovery of that stored water during times when it is needed (Figure 1). Read more on other ASR projects within the District here. This current project allows for RRWSC to take Edwards Aquifer water, during non-drought times, and inject the water into the Middle Trinity Aquifer for subsequent recovery and use for its public water supply system. After completion of technical reviews and the pilot project, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) granted a Class V ASR well permit in February of 2020 and BSEACD approved the Class D Conditional Edwards Permit at the September 10, 2020 Board Meeting.

Figure 1. Aquifer Storage & Recovery Conceptual Graphic 

In about 2015, BSEACD staff discussed with RRWSC the possibility of using their Edwards and Trinity wells for Aquifer Storage & Recovery. These wells had been used for direct water-supply purposes. Because of the poorer observed quality water in the Middle Trinity Aquifer, RRWSC had to blend the Edwards and Trinity waters before delivery to its customers. RRWSC began their pilot project in 2017 and testing ended in 2019. The objective was to look at the feasibility of storing water in the Middle Trinity Aquifer which is situated below the Edwards Aquifer. The project consisted of four phases of tests that increased volumes of injected water in each successive phase predicated upon successful results at the end of each phase. The major objective of the first two phases was to characterize the suitability of the Middle Trinity Aquifer for injection and storage. An additional objective was to look at the recoverability of injected water in the last two phases. With all four phases completed, RRWSC had stored approximately 20 million gallons of water in the Middle Trinity Aquifer, recovered 7 million gallons, and still has approximately 13 million gallons stored in the aquifer for later use.

The horrors of household water waste can add up quickly! The US EPA reports that the most common types of leaks found in the home are worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. Avoid these frightful water leaks by following these simple steps around your home.

View resources like the EPA Leak Detector Checklist, follow step-by-step for each indoor fixture with this Indoor Visual Leak Guide, or watch this Hidden Water Waste Video from a water provider for more guidance. If you have a water meter, another way to check for a leak is to watch the meter level before and after a two-hour period where no water is being used. If the meter changes at all you most likely have a leak that needs to be addressed.

These resources can help you snuff out leaky culprits around your home before they become a horror. Regularly checking for water leaks not only saves you money on your water bill, but also helps to conserve shared water resources–particularly in times of drought. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

DIY Rain Barrel Instructions:Download our free instructions for a do-it-yourself rain barrel. Great for supplemental outdoor watering and groundwater conservation. (Details)

Hill Country Living Festival + Rainwater Revival: The District is a proud sponsor of the HCA event. Explore the Education Station & shop the Virtual Marketplace now. (Details)

2020 BSEACD Director – General Election: View official election notices and list of polling sites. November 3rd, 2020 is Election Day. (Details)

EP Permit Update: This application is currently under review of an Administrative Law Judge within SOAH. The public hearing on the merits of the application will take place in April, 2021. (Details)


Tuesday, November 3rd Election Day

Monday, November 9thGMA 10 Public Meeting (Details)

Wednesday, November 11thOffice Closed for Veterans Day

Thursday, November 12thBSEACD Virtual Board Meeting

November 26th-27thOffice Closed for Thanksgiving

Tuesday, December 1stPermittee Meter Readings Due

December 1st-2ndDigital Now for Natural Resource Professionals (Details)

BSEACD Overview Video

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