Drought Update

We currently remain in Critical Drought status (Stage III). It was officially declared on October 20, 2022. One of the District’s drought triggers, Lovelady Monitor Well, passed below its Critical Drought (Stage III) trigger on October 17, 2022.

December rainfall delivered an average of 1.44 inches across the District. This is about 1 inch short of the historical December average of 2.4 inches. While any rain is good rain in a drought, December yielded little aquifer recharge. Any benefit for surface vegetation was unfortunately counteracted by the late-December arctic outbreak which dropped temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the Hill Country.

The Hill Country ended 2022 with cumulative rainfall of about 13 inches below the normal 34 inches (figure 1). According to data from the National Weather Service published in the Austin American Statesman, this makes 2022 the region’s driest year since the drought-plagued and heat-record-setting year of 2011, with 68 days of triple-digit temperatures (Statesman). Because of this, aquifer levels and spring flow in the Edwards and Trinity have received little help and drought conditions continue to worsen.

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

On January 3, the Lovelady well had a level of 461.0 ft msl, 1.7 ft below the trigger level for Critical drought (Stage III) and about 4 ft above Stage IV Exceptional drought (figure 2). Lovelady crossed under the Stage II trigger on May 26 and under Stage III on October 17.

Figure 2. Lovelady monitoring well water elevation level

Also on January 3, Barton Springs was flowing at 26 cfs (10-day average), 12 cfs below the Stage II Alarm drought trigger point of 38 cfs (figure 3). The Stage III Critical trigger is 20 cfs. Barton Springs crossed under the Stage II drought trigger in late June and could cross into Stage III in late January if we receive no additional rain.

Figure 3. Barton Springs flow

The Austin/Hill Country area has received below annual average rainfall in 2022 in part due to ongoing La Niña conditions (declared by NOAA on 10/14/21). Climate scientists forecast these below-average rainfall and above-average heat conditions to continue into the winter and a dry spring 2023. It’s not until February that we could return to neutral conditions (neither La Niña or El Niño).

With current conditions in mind, let’s begin 2023 with a renewed “resolution” to conserve water and amp up our resilience through this significant period of Central Texas drought.

Other useful links:

Aquifer District Declares Critical Drought (Stage III)

Aquifer District Declares Critical Drought (Stage III)

For Immediate Release: October 20, 2022
For more information, contact: David Marino, Communications & Outreach Manager at (512) 282-8441 or dmarino@bseacd.org

On October 20, 2022, Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District General Manager Tim Loftus, declared Critical Drought (Stage III). One of the District’s drought triggers, Lovelady Monitor Well, passed below its Critical Drought trigger on October 17, 2022. Only one of the District’s two drought stage triggers (Lovelady Monitor Well & Barton Springs) 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 District hasn’t been in Critical Drought (Stage III) since October of 2013. While drought conditions have improved across the state, central Texas still isn’t seeing much rain. So far, we have received below average rainfall every month this year except for February and August. May, June, and July of 2022 were the warmest on record for Austin. Reducing water use is now critical. With continued lack of rainfall and high rates of pumping, water levels could drop to the extent that some wells go dry. The District has already received reports of dry wells. Flow from Barton Springs could eventually decrease to the point where ecological, recreational, and aesthetic uses of Barton Springs would be damaged.

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

  • 30% for Edwards Historical and Conditional Class A permittees,
  • 75% for Edwards Conditional Class B permittees,
  • 100% for Edwards Conditional Class C and Class D permittees, and
  • 30% for Trinity and Alluvial/Austin Chalk Historical permittees

“We can’t afford to underestimate the threat that the current drought poses and the need for everyone to do their part to conserve water,” said General Manager Tim Loftus.

End-user customers (60,000+ existing groundwater users in the District) served by water utilities on groundwater wells are required to comply with their utility’s water use restrictions for this drought stage. Generally, outdoor irrigation of lawns and landscaping is now prohibited or severely restricted. Groundwater uses should be limited for essential indoor demands needed to preserve health and safety with a very minor allocation provided for non-essential outdoor water use.

November is the first month that permittees will need to meet new reductions in pumpage. Permittees should refer to the monthly drought allocations listed in their User Drought Conservation Plan (UDCP) and Drought Target Charts.

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.

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.

Useful links:

Drought Information
Frequently Asked Drought Questions
Drought Media Tool-Kit
Drought Status page
Drought Management page