Sunday, July 27, 2014

Drought declaration delayed

The Board decided to wait on making an Alarm Drought declaration this last Board Meeting (7/24/14) and consider action at then next Board meeting in August. Barton Springs flow continues to decline, but has not yet crossed its threshold. The Lovelady water level elevation is also continuing to decline, and is already more than 1 ft below its threshold for Alarm Stage II Drought.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Alarm Drought Declaration pending

Moderate drought conditions persist throughout central Texas and the reprieve from drought conditions in the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer in late June and early July have passes. It's back to drought--the Lovelady drought trigger has crossed it's respective Alarm Stage threshold and the Board will consider the declaration of Alarm Drought conditions at Thursday (7/24/14) night's Board Meeting.

The good news is that we are well into the summer and to date it's not been as severe as previous summers (like 2011). There is also a strong chance that the El Nino conditions will bring above-normal rainfall this winter for Texas.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lovelady approaching Alarm Stage threshold

Both Barton Springs and the Lovelady well are in a declining trend; however they are presently above their respective drought triggers. The Lovelady well is relatively close to its Alarm threshold and could cross it in the next week. The Board of Directors could declare Drought at its next Board meeting. Without some major tropical system bringing rain, July and August are usually hot and dry, and so it is likely we'll be entering back into drought this summer--hopefully some rains can help extend this reprieve from drought conditions.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Drought Declaration lifted, Water Conservation Period declared

On Thursday, June 26th, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of Directors voted to lift the drought declaration and enter into the Water Conservation Period (10% voluntary conservation).  Recent rains have saturated soils and allowed for enough runoff to fill creeks and raise water levels in the aquifer.  One of the area’s two groundwater drought indicators, the water level in the Lovelady Monitor Well, has been rising slowly since the May rain events. On Wednesday, June 18, the water level in the Lovelady Well crossed above the District’s drought threshold. The other drought indicator, sustained flow rate at Barton Springs, moved above its threshold after the precipitation events in mid-May and has remained there.  Both indicators need to be above their designated thresholds – and currently are – to emerge from drought.
The District declared a groundwater drought on April 24, 2014, just two months ago. While the aquifer has received some recharge and has passed into Water Conservation Period status, it is still below average water storage capacity.  During the Water Conservation Period, from May through September, groundwater users are encouraged to maintain conservation practices, but mandatory water use restrictions are lifted. 
Brian Smith, Aquifer Science Team Leader, stated that, “While the drought triggers are both above their thresholds now, July and August are typically very hot and dry, so we could see spring discharge and water levels start to decline again.  Without more significant rainfall, it could be a month before one or both drought triggers are back below their thresholds and our Board could declare drought again.”
Groundwater users are encouraged to continue to conserve.  Conserving water can prolong the time spent out of groundwater drought and protect water levels and springflow at Barton Springs.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rainy May Recharges Aquifer

Stage II Alarm Drought
Lovelady Monitor Well: 477.60 ft-msl
Barton Springs Discharge: 67 cfs 10-day average

May brought much needed rain, in above average amounts. The District office received 8.35 inches last month, almost twice the historic average of 4.35 inches. The last set of storms in May, which occurred over the course of 6 consecutive days, dropped 4.5 inches of rain. As a result, water levels in the aquifer have been on the rise, but the rate at which they are doing so is starting to taper off and will start dropping in the coming days without more rain (see figure below). District staff does not expect water levels to reach the Drought threshold of 478.4 ft-msl before the dropping trend starts. Despite the quenching rains in last month, the 6-month total rainfall remains about 4 inches below average, hopefully the summer months follow suit with May and bring steady rains.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Aquifer Levels Rising... for now

Stage II Alarm Drought
Barton Springs: 70 cfs
Lovelady: 475.5 ft-msl

After last week's soaking, creeks in the area experienced sustained flow, and as a result a substantial amount of recharge occurred. The LCRA gauge on Onion Creek at Buda crested at about 8 feet and was flowing at about 1700 cfs in what had been a virtually dry creek bed  before the rain. As of now, most creeks have either stopped flowing or are carrying only a meager amount of water (1cfs in Onion Creek at Buda). The heavy rain was a welcome departure from the dry norm set this spring and although water level in the District's Lovelady monitor well is on the rise, it is unlikely to rise above its drought threshold without more rain. The current drought declaration is based solely on Lovelady monitor well water level as discharge at Barton Springs is currently at around 70 cfs, considerably above its drought threshold of 38 cfs. Even though these rains were likely not enough to remove drought conditions, they will have certainly put off entering deeper stage of drought by a couple of weeks. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Flow in Creeks means Recharge to Aquifer!

Stage II Alarm Drought
Barton Springs discharge: 51 cfs (10-day average)
Lovelady Monitor Well:  474 ft-msl

The District rain gauge received 4.5 inches over the last couple of days. Many of the area creeks are flowing after the strong and steady rain that started on Memorial Day morning. Rains over the last couple of weeks had increased soil moisture and primed conditions for runoff and sustained flow in creeks to occur after a sizable precipitation event like this one.  Most of the recharge that the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer receives comes from karst features (caves, sinks) in creek beds. In other words, when our creeks are flowing, recharge is occurring. The LCRA Hydromet is a good resource to see rain distribution and flow in creeks over time.
In the coming days it is likely water levels in the aquifer will rise. It is unlikely that water level will rise enough in the Lovelady monitor well (one of the District's drought-trigger sites) to prompt the Board to remove the current drought declaration, but the storm will have certainly prolonged descending into deeper stages of drought. Barton Springs, the District's other drought trigger site is well above its drought threshold. It however, is not as reliable an indicator of how much water is being stored in the aquifer as Lovelady well because it is better connected to karst conduits that quickly bring water from the surface to the spring outlet and make it susceptible to flashy changes in discharge. On the other hand, water in Lovelady monitor well comes from between the grains that make up the limestone aquifer, and is therefore not prone to flashy water level changes. Only one of the District's drought-trigger sites needs to be below it drought threshold for a drought declaration to be enacted. Hopefully we will receive more rains like this one as summer progresses and El Niño development becomes more favorable. 
Below see some pictures of flowing creeks and active recharge features.
Brodie Sink

Williamson Creek near Brush Country Road

Onion Creek near Driftwood


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Barton Springs Above Drought Threshold, Lovelady Below

Stage II Alarm Drought
Barton Springs discharge: 50 cfs 10-day average
Lovelady Monitor Well: 474.00 ft-msl

Barton Springs saw a surge in flow after last week's rain, causing a momentary reversal to the trend of decreasing discharge that has been the norm since late last year. As welcome as that change is, the increased flow is not due to a dramatic increase in water storage in the aquifer, but more to do with how well connected Barton Springs is to conduits and fractures that quickly carry water to it from recharge features in creek beds. Substantial recharge to the aquifer occurs when there is prolonged flow in the creeks; last week's rains only generated runoff for a brief period and thus, only minimal recharge. The increased flow at Barton springs has already peaked and is once again trending downward. The District's other drought trigger site, Lovelady monitor well, is not as well connected to conduits and fractures like Barton Springs, and as such is not susceptible to sudden water level rises. The hydrograph for Lovelady monitor well did not experience a sudden change like Barton Springs did, rather, it has just flattened out momentarily. See the most recent Drought Status Chart here. Even though flow at Barton Springs has increased and is well above its Stage II drought threshold, a drought declaration remains in place because Lovelady monitor well is below its threshold of 478.4 ft-msl. With any luck ENSO conditions will develop before too long. The Climate Prediction Center expects that chances of El Niño conditions developing during the summer exceed 65%.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Little Recharge, but Rains Prime Soil for Recharge

Stage II Alarm Drought
Barton Springs: 42 cfs 10-day average
Lovelady well: 475.4 ft-msl

The storms over the last few days brought with them much needed precipitation to what has been an exceedingly dry spring. On May 8th, the US Drought monitor reported that the majority of the state was being afflicted by meteorological drought. As of today, the total rainfall at the District office for 2014 is 7.5 inches, barely over half the historic average of 14.3 inches. Dry soil conditions preceding the heavy rains we received this week precluded sustained runoff to the creeks, where the majority of the recharge to the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer occurs. The recharge that did occur will not be enough to remove aquifer drought conditions, but will prolong entering deeper stages of drought. Another very welcome effect of the rains is that they will have increased soil moisture, priming them to produce runoff and potential recharge to the aquifer if we get more rain in the next couple of weeks. NOAA predicts that El Niño conditions are likely to develop by the end of summer, generally meaning wetter conditions in Texas. Let's hope in the mean time we get more storms like the ones we saw this week!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Storm Today Breaks Dry Streak

Stage II Alarm Drought
Barton Springs: 41 cfs 10-day average
Lovelady Well: 475.34 ft-msl

At their last meeting on April 24th, the District's Board of Directors declared Stage II Alarm Drought based on the water level in Lovelady monitor well, one of the District's two drought-trigger sites, dropping below its drought threshold of 478.4 ft-msl. The other drought-trigger site, Barton Springs, remains flowing above its drought threshold of 38 cfs, but may drop below that in the coming weeks if precipitation conditions do not improve. Before today's latest total of 0.16 inches, the rain gauge at the District office had not collected any precipitation since mid-April, breaking an almost 3-week dry period. According to the  U.S. Drought monitor most of Texas currently finds itself in drought with central Texas in particular experiencing drought ranging from Severe to Exceptional. Despite the dry conditions, NOAA has released a statement that there is a 65% chance of El Niño developing during the remainder of the year, which could potentially bring wetter conditions to Texas.