BSEACD Spring Newsletter

Spring 2020 eNews

Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District

Topics: Water Conservation Period, Aquifer Update, District Publications, ASR Interest Grows


10% voluntary reduction in pumping

District Operations Reminder:

The District is continuing to monitor the Covid-19 situation in Hays and Travis County. In the interest of public health and safety, the District office remains closed to the public and is conducting operations remotely. District Operational Changes have been extended through May 15th. Anyone needing assistance can contact staff by email or by phone during adjusted phone hours, which are 9am-3pm Monday-Friday.

The District’s Water Conservation Period begins Friday, May 1 st and extends through the end of September–the time when water use is at its peak.

Starting on May 1 st , Austin Water Utility restricts outdoor watering to no more than twice per week, and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District initiates a voluntary 10% reduction in groundwater pumping by its permittees. Though the approaches are different, the goal is the same–prolong water availability throughout the hottest and driest portion 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.

Central Texas entered April in near drought conditions. Since the beginning of 2020, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer region has received a little over 10 inches of rainfall. The ~6 inches that fell between January and March did little but wet the ground, leaving creeks relatively dry. While this produced minimal recharge, it was important in wetting the soil. This enabled the ~3.5 inches of rain from April 3-4 to run off, filling area creeks . Local aquifers showed a slight response to recharge, particularly the Upper Trinity ( see hydrograph ) . This is encouraging as we progress through the wettest months of the year (March – June), but more is needed to reverse the downward trend of aquifer levels as we prepare for summer.

We are not currently in drought. Without more rain, groundwater levels could dip beneath drought thresholds as soon as mid-May to June. For more on current drought status and how to tell when we enter/exit drought visit the District Drought Blog.

To achieve the statutory mandate of aquifer protection, the District’s Board of Directors relies upon scientific studies to develop defensible science-based policies and regulations. The District has a long history of conducting and providing scientific information spanning more than 30 years. Recently published studies can be found on the Scientific Reports page . Two recent peer-reviewed publications we would like to highlight include:

This study presents a compilation of existing and new hydrogeologic data in the form of a hydrogeologic atlas, intended to improve the collective understanding of groundwater resources in the region with a focus on southwest Travis County. This study documents groundwater mining of the Trinity Aquifers adjacent to the District and will help scientists to better understand the Trinity Aquifers in the region. This was a collaborative study by the District and Travis County and was funded by Travis County.

This study helped identify areas in Hays County that contribute to springflow of the Middle Trinity Aquifer and will aid in the development of Hays Trinity GCD management zones, rules, and strategies. The springflow is essential to provide baseflows to the Blanco River and ultimately recharge to the Edwards Aquifer during dry periods. This was a collaborative study by scientists from numerous agencies.

As the Central Texas Hill Country and I-35 populations continue to grow, so will demands on water resources. To adequately plan for that growth, many water suppliers and utilities are exploring alternatives to diversify their supply sources and their long-term water supply strategies. Some of those strategies include brackish & desalination systems, water reuse, rainwater harvesting, and aquifer storage & recovery (ASR) systems.

Many water managers expect ASR to become an increasingly important tool for meeting future water demand as it has become a well-established technology used to improve the management of water resources in the state.

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. If properly engineered and operated, the water stored in an aquifer storage and recovery system is not subject to the evaporative losses encountered in surface storage reservoirs and remains available for future use. Furthermore, ASR systems have a small footprint relative to surface-water reservoirs. 

There are two local water suppliers in Hays County who have taken steps to perform feasibility and pilot tests for ASR. District staff have worked closely with the ASR project teams at the Ruby Ranch Water Supply Corporation (RRWSC) and City of Buda to collect data and review project plans. The District has set aside 2 cfs (472 MG/yr) of freshwater Edwards for ASR projects to be used during non-drought conditions. The District hopes that such water strategies will reduce dependence on the Edwards during times of drought and during peak demand. Click below to read more on each of these projects.

District Staff continue to conduct limited field work while maintaining social distance practices and utilizing personal protective equipment. While monitoring effects of recent rains on aquifer levels, staff captured this drone footage of Bear Creek, one of the primary recharge creeks for the Edwards–which studies have shown feeds around 6% of the average flow at Barton Springs. Enjoy this birds-eye-view of flowing Bear Creek just after the rains received in early April.


Friday, May 1 st Water Conservation Period Begins

Friday, May 1 st Permittee Meter Readings Due

Thursday, May 14 th – BSEACD Virtual Board Meeting

Monday, June 1 st Permittee Meter Readings Due