Friday, December 14, 2018

2018 Aquifer Status Recap

No Drought (Board declared on 10/11/18)
Lovelady well height: 504 ft-msl (150 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately 97 cfs 10-day average

2018 began with a status of No Drought, following a trend which began back in September 2014, when water levels began to rise after above-average rainfall. Steady recharge throughout 2015 and 2016 continued to increase aquifer water levels as well as Barton Springs flow. In January 2015, the Board updated the drought status from Stage II Alarm Drought to No Drought. After two consecutive years of average rainfall in 2017 and 2018, water levels and Barton Springs flow fell below their respective Drought thresholds. On July 12th, 2018, the District Board declared Stage II Alarm Drought, ending a 3-year and 6-month No Drought status.

Measurements began to decline in April 2017 and eventually crossed below drought warning levels in July 2018. Then an average of 12 inches of rain in September and October 2018 produced much needed recharge, resulting in rising aquifer levels. They rose above the Stage II Alarm Drought threshold in early October and the Board declared No-Drought at the October 11th, 2018, Board Meeting.

Austin has received and overall 32” of rainfall as of December 14th 2018, producing significant recharge for local aquifers. While levels continue to climb from additional rainfall, much more recharge is needed to bolster against another decline a the the Lovelady Monitor Well.

Official forecasts favor the formation of a weak El NiƱo in the Pacific, which is likely to result in wet conditions through the winter and into Spring 2019.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from the BSEACD!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Groundwater User Water Quality Concerns Due to Recent Rains

No Drought (Board declared on 10/11/18)
Lovelady well height: 485.9 ft-msl (167.5 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately 73 cfs 10-day average

Flooding in the highland lakes region has caused the City of Austin to issue a boil water and emergency conservation notice for Austin Water customers on Oct. 22, 2018. Several groundwater users have contacted the District to ask if they should be concerned about groundwater water quality.  There is no indication that regional groundwater quality has been negatively impacted by the recent rain events.  The major floods have been outside the District’s recharge and contributing zones; however, well owners should pay close attention to any changes in their well water.
During rain events, wells in karst aquifers (like the Edwards & Trinity Aquifers) can see quick recharge, just as the Highland Lakes have seen.  Runoff can wash sediments and contaminants into the groundwater system.  Occasionally, well owners notice a change in taste, odor or appearance after rains—this is an indicator that the well is directly connected to the surface through caves or fractures common in karst aquifers. If groundwater users ever notice a change in taste, odor or appearance, you can boil the water before drinking or use bottled water to be cautious.  If you have a question about your water quality, you can take a sample to an area lab to have it analyzed. Common treatment systems that take care of bacteria (the most common surface contaminant) use either chlorination, ultraviolet light, or reverse osmosis for their drinking water.
The silt, sediment, and other particulates in the Colorado River are so high that surface water systems’ filters and treatment equipment are having trouble keeping up with demand.  While Edwards and Trinity Aquifer wells are not tapped into the Colorado River, those same recent rain events may have washed surface sediments and contaminants into the groundwater.
There’s a good overview of wells and major rainfall events here: 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Aquifer District Lifts Drought Declaration

No Drought (Board declared on 10/11/18)
Lovelady well height: 482.4 ft-msl (171.0 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately 75 cfs 10-day average

At the October 11 Board Meeting, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s Directors declared a No-Drought condition for the aquifers within the District, effective immediately. While rainfall totals across central Texas varied significantly in September and October, areas in the contributing and recharge zones received enough rain to saturate soils and allow runoff to generate stream flow in the recharge zone creeks. One of the area’s two groundwater drought indicators, Barton Springs discharge, has been above the Stage II Alarm Drought threshold (10-day average of 38 cubic feet per second) since September 9, 2018.  On Friday, October 5, 2018 the water level in the Lovelady Well crossed above its drought threshold (478.4 feet above mean sea level). Both indicators need to be above their designated thresholds – and currently are – to emerge from drought.

The District declared a groundwater drought and has been enforcing mandatory water-use restrictions since July 2018.  Sustained creekflow in the recharge zone creeks has generated substantial recharge to the aquifer.  Water levels are still below average, but with additional rainfall they could continue to rise. Groundwater users are encouraged to maintain conservation practices, but mandatory pumping curtailments are lifted. 

Useful links:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Drought in the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer: Are we in or out?

Alarm Stage II Drought
Lovelady well height: 475 ft-msl
Barton Springs: approximately 90+ cfs 10-day average (USGS gauge is currently under maintenance)

September 23, 2018
Since early September we’ve received more than 10 inches of rainfall that has ultimately produced runoff and recharge to the aquifer. Present the streams are flowing (Onion Creek > 100cfs), water levels are rising, and Barton Springs is flowing > 60 cfs). So how can we still be in drought?

In fact, I received a call late last week from a groundwater user pointing out that the local news declared the end of the drought last week, and they asked why is it that the BSEACD is still under official Stage II Alarm drought declarations since July 12th. Indeed, for our area the US drought monitor maps show drought conditions in early September and then non-drought conditions by mid-September after the rains (

The primary reason is that changes in the amount of groundwater in an aquifers generally lag behind the effects of weather 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, with what most people consider drought actually classified as a 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 Aquifer can be best characterized as hydrological, but more specifically a groundwater drought.

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 well to 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, but Barton Springs can be highly sensitive to relatively minor and localized rainfall events. We’re seeing this right now with Barton Springs responding to these rains and flow well above its drought trigger. Conversely, the Lovelady well has a muted response to minor rainfall, but is a good measure of overall storage in the aquifer. Water levels have responded to the drought and are rising, but are below their trigger level for now.

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 1). However, during that period Barton Springs temporarily responded to two large rain events that did not result in significant increases in recharge and storage to the aquifer as indicated by water levels in the Lovelady well.

The good news about the current groundwater drought is that the Lovelady water-level trends are currently rising upward at a rate of about (0.3 ft/day) and if they continue rising, we may be out of drought by early October 2018. The short-term and long-term forecasts are calling for more rain, so the outlook is very good that we may exit groundwater drought conditions soon.
More information on District’s drought trigger methodologies:

Figure 1. Period of Stage II Alarm Drought from 2014.  The BSEACD declared drought in July 2014 and then exited drought conditions in early 2015. This illustrates that Barton Springs responded to rainfall events, but did not result in significant increases in storage within the aquifer as represented by the Lovelady Well.  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Fall Rain Fall!

Alarm Stage II Drought
Lovelady well height: 472 ft-msl
Barton Springs: approximately 43 cfs 10-day average

The wet weather pattern continues around Austin!
Today (9/14) marks our 12th day in a row of rain in the region, and it looks like we have five or so more to go. According to Spectrum News, there’s a pretty good chance for rain from the system developing in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA currently predicts a 60% chance it’ll become a Tropical Depression in the next 48 hours and it might even grow to Tropical Storm Joyce.

Given how saturated the ground has become, it won’t take much rain to cause flash flooding in the area. So be aware, Turn Around, Don't Drown.

Spectrum News’ computer models points to a landfall somewhere along the Lower or Middle Texas Coast by Friday evening, with rain spreading all the way up across Central Texas in Saturday. That said, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with this forecast.

So what do es this mean for our current drought conditions?
The BSEACD drought outlook valid from August 30, 2018, to September 13, 2018 remains in  “ALARM STAGE II Drought”. Even with the recent rains in the Hill Country and Austin averaging 7”(LCRA) raising Barton Springs flow, aquifer levels remain below Stage II trigger levels. Much needed recharge certainly occurred and area creeks saw large amounts of flow, but more is needed to exit Stage II drought.

Barton Springs flow has risen to 43 cfs (10 day avg) up from 27 cfs while Lovelady monitor well saw a short period of leveling water levels, but continues on a downward trend. Levels are currently at 472 ft-msl (Stage II trigger level = below 478 ft-msl).

Onion creek saw a peak flow of 2,700 cfs and a peak stage of 9.7 ft (bank full stage = 8 ft) (LCRA, Buda). Antioch cave vault received little of this recharge because suspended solids in storm waters were too high to open Antioch valves.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Trinity Aquifer Levels

Both the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers fluctuate during dry and wet periods—similar to water supply reservoirs like Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan.  Since January of this year, water levels in both aquifers have been on the decline due to drought.

For a closer look at regional Trinity Aquifer trends, the graph below shows hydrographs (water-level measurements over time) for an Upper Trinity and two Middle Trinity monitor wells in Hays County.  These wells show 2 to 46 foot declines since January.  While this is a limited set of wells, it follows trends we are seeing across the region. Until the area receives significant rainfall, water levels in the aquifers will continue to drop.
The District declared Stage II Alarm Drought in late July 2018 (press release), and all permitted wells are required to reduce pumping by at least 20%.  The current hot and dry weather pattern coupled with high water use has water levels throughout the area on the decline. Localized pumping can influence water levels in surrounding wells, so all groundwater users should conserve and reduce water use.

Useful links:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

EP Pumpage Application Update

During the 20-day comment period, the District received 12 requests for a contested case hearing and 312 comment letters on the Electro Purification permit application.  At its July 12 meeting, the Board of Directors unanimously approved the following procedural matters relating to this permit application. The Board's motions:
  • Confirmed the General Manager’s determination that a contested case hearing will be held on the application;
  • Referred the permit application to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to conduct the contested case hearing including the preliminary hearing;
  • Designated a Board subcommittee to select special counsel.
The District expects the preliminary hearing to be held before the end of September 2018, which at that time the SOAH judge will determine the “parties” and a schedule for the hearing on the merits of the contested case.

For full details, official documents, and timeline visit:  EP Production Permit Application Notice Page

Monday, July 16, 2018

Stage II Alarm Drought Declaration on July 12th 2018

Aquifer District Declares Stage II Alarm Drought

The District’s Board of Directors declared Stage II Alarm Drought at the July 12th Board Meeting.  The 10-day average discharge at Barton Springs, one of the District’s two drought trigger sites, has passed below the Stage II Alarm Drought threshold of 38 cubic feet per second. Lovelady monitor well, the District’s second drought-trigger site, is less than 1 foot above its drought threshold (water level elevation of 478.4 feet above mean sea level). Only one of the two drought stage triggers needs to be reached for a drought declaration to be made.

The last groundwater drought declaration ended on January 30, 2015—over 3 years ago.  Recharge associated with years of above average rainfall has helped maintain water levels in the area aquifers until recently.  Since May of this year, both flow at Barton Springs and the water level at the Lovelady monitor well have been declining.  Recent rainfall has not generated the runoff needed to sustain creek flow in the creeks and rivers that recharge the aquifers.

Declaration of Stage II Alarm Drought requires all District’s permittees to implement mandatory measures specified in their User Drought Contingency Plans to meet monthly pumpage reduction requirements.  All permittees must achieve at least a 20% reduction in monthly pumpage.  Permittees with conditional permits have to reduce use even further.  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 & refilling, and non-essential water use such as water fountains, is sufficient to reach monthly pumpage targets for Stage II Alarm Drought.  August will be the first full month of declared drought, and therefore, it will be the first month of compliance assessments for drought curtailments. 

Useful links:

Drought status page:

Press release archive:

Drought management page:

Water Conservation & Protection page:

Talking Points for Approaching Stage II Alarm Drought Talking Points

·         How close are drought triggers to Stage II Alarm Drought thresholds?  (last updated 7/15/18)
o   Barton Springs 10-day average discharge has crossed below the drought trigger threshold of 38 cfs.
o   The water level in the Lovelady Monitor Well is less than 2 feet above the Stage II Alarm Drought threshold (478.4 feet above mean sea level).  It is expected to cross its threshold in the coming week.
o   Only one drought trigger below its threshold required to enter into drought.

·         What does Stage II Alarm Drought mean for homeowners?
o   Water utilities using groundwater are required to cut back their monthly pumping by at least 20%.
o   Consequently, all end users that get their water from groundwater will have to reduce their water use.
o   Check your water bill for monthly water use—should be below 4,000 gallons a person.
o   Restrict outdoor watering.  Follow your water utility’s watering restrictions. 

·         What is the weather outlook for the next few months? (last updated 6/28/18)
o   U.S. Drought Outlook is predicting a drier than average August - October. 
o   Discharge and water levels are in steady decline; it will take consistent rainfall to saturate the soils to allow runoff to fill creeks.  We need enough rainfall so creeks flow consistently for a few weeks—preferably a few months—since the majority of the recharge to the aquifer comes when creeks flow across the recharge zone.

·         Where should people go to find out more information?
o   Our website… or google ‘Barton Springs Aquifer District’.

·         What is the drought response from other area water agencies (updated 7/15/18)?
Edwards Aquifer Authority:
o   San Antonio Pool under Stage 2 restrictions (30% curtailment)  based on 10-day average values for J-17 (current reading:  642.7msl;  Stage 3 threshold 640msl, Stage 4 threshold 630msl).  Comal Springs flow is currently 194 cfs, the threshold level for Stage 2 is 200, Stage III is 150.  San Marcos Springs is at 131cfs, which is well above the 80cfs Stage 2 trigger level.
o   News Release (6/11/18):  San Antonio moves to Stage 2 outdoor water limits
o   EAA Critical Stage Info (Triggers, Stages and Reductions)

City of Austin: 
o   City of Austin is in Conservation Stage Restrictions (automatic irrigation limited to 1 day per week, before 10am or after 7pm)
o   Follows LCRA drought triggers (see next section).

City of San Marcos
o   Stage 2 Water Restrictions went into effect on 6/17/2018 (lawn irrigation limited to 1 day per week)

Lower Colorado River Authority:
o   Currently no declared drought.
o   Water storage in Lakes Travis and Buchanan are currently at 75% full (1,509,032 acre feet, 7/15/2018).  Check real time Lake Volumes.
o   When lakes reach 900,000 acre feet, firm water customers required to reduce water use by 10-20%, and LCRA starts curtailment of interruptible permits and environmental flow allocations.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority:
o   Currently no declared drought.
o   See 2011 Drought Contingency Plan for more info. 

Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District:
o   Drought Stage 2, Alarm declared on June 28, 2018
o   20% curtailment of pumping

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

On the Cusp of Drought Heading into Summer 2018

No Drought (Preparing for it, so please conserve!)
Lovelady well height: 487. ft-msl (166.4 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately 56 cfs 10-day average

The BSEACD drought outlook valid from May 10, 2018, to May 24, 2018 remains in “NO DROUGHT” as aquifer levels at the Lovelady well were helped out with a 3 inch rain event in early May that stabilized water levels to stay above Alarm Stage level and Barton Springs flow was also helped by the rains that boosted flow up to 66 cubic feet per second

Lovelady water levels are stable just after an early May shower of 3”. All area creeks saw a rise in stage and Onion creek went from dry to 4’ feet of stage in Buda with flow peaking at 28 cfs. Antioch cave valves were open and taking plenty of needed recharge. Onion creek has returned to dry as we have received only 1 inch since early May.

Barton Springs flow has also been on the rise since the rain, raising flow to a peak 66 cfs (up from 57 cfs just days before). The recent rain has postponed the BSEACD prediction of falling below Alarm Stage (below 38 cfs) from mid April to late June if we are not to get additional rain. This prediction seems to be staying on cource with such little rain.

A declaration of drought for the aquifers will be made by the District based on which of the two drought indicators enters drought condition first. Because of the 7 “ rain so far this spring, aquifer levels and Barton Springs flow have increased. This holds off drought for a bit longer and postpones the BSEACD prediction of  drought conditions between April and June of this year to late June to early July. With The development of La Nina conditions, which is a tendency for hotter and drier conditions, may exacerbate the advance of drought.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Desalination and ASR Feasibility Assessment

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 487.6 ft-msl (165.7 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately 62 cfs 10-day average

The Edwards Aquifer has been considered a vast source of inexpensive, high-quality drinking water for many years. However, restrictions have been placed on production from the Edwards in recent years, and rising demands have increased faster than the provision of other additional sources. With the past significant reliance on the Edwards Aquifer, other potential sources warrant further consideration. Potential sources within the boundaries of the BSEACD that are being minimally used, if at all, include the Middle and Lower Trinity aquifers, and the brackish portion of the Edwards. One prospective new water supply source is the large quantity of brackish groundwater in the eastern portion of the District. Texas Disposal Systems is located on this “donut hole” which is outside the jurisdiction of the BSEACD. Multi-port wells installed here have provided data necessary to analyze the feasibility of desalination of the brackish
groundwater; management of desalination treatment residuals; and using the treated water for aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

Read more here