Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Welcomed Rain Holding Off Drought

Lovelady well height: 481 ft-msl
Barton Springs: approximately 57 cfs 10-day average

April 23, 2020
Since the beginning of 2020, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer region has received a little over 10 inches of rainfall, producing some runoff and recharge to the aquifer. After about 3.5 inches of rain between April 3rd-4th, area streams are flowing (Onion Creek > 40 cfs) as well as Barton Springs ( > 60 cfs).  For the moment, we are not in drought.

It often takes time for groundwater levels to reflect changes in the weather. Drought is defined as “a period of drier-than-normal conditions that result in water-related problems.” However, there are several varieties of drought.  Generally, people are most familiar with 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, Barton Springs can be highly sensitive to relatively minor and localized rainfall events. We’re seeing this right now with Barton Springs responding to recent 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 recent rains, but continue a downward trend towards Alarm Stage Drought II.

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.

Without more rain, groundwater levels could dip beneath the Drought threshold as soon as mid-May to June. The good news is we are entering the wettest months of the year in Central Texas.
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, January 10, 2020

2020 Talking Points for Approaching Alarm Stage II Drought

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 495 ft-msl (158 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs approximately: 45 cfs (10-day average)

·         How close are drought triggers to Stage II Alarm Drought thresholds?  (last updated 1/10/20)
o   Barton Springs 10-day average discharge is at 47 cfs and continues to decline towards the drought trigger threshold of 38 cfs.
o   The water level in the Lovelady Monitor Well is 17 feet above the Stage II Alarm Drought threshold (478.4 feet above mean sea level).  It is expected to cross its threshold in mid-February.
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 1/10/20)
o   U.S. Drought Outlook is predicting a drier than average January - March 
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… www.bseacd.org or google ‘Barton Springs Aquifer District’.

What is the drought response from other area water agencies (updated 1/10/20)?

Edwards Aquifer Authority:
o   No drought conditions
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   No drought restrictions

Lower Colorado River Authority:
o   Currently no declared drought.
o   Water storage in Lakes Travis and Buchanan are currently at 87% full (1,748,038 acre feet, 1/10/20).  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   No drought conditions

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

2019 Aquifer Status Review

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 495 ft-msl (158 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs approximately: 46 cfs (10-day average)

FY 2019 began with a status of Stage II Alarm Drought declared by the Board on July 12th, 2018. An average of 13 inches of rain in September to October provided much needed recharge to the Edwards and Trinity aquifers. These rains revived aquifer water levels and Barton Springs flow, elevating to above Stage II Alarm drought warning levels. The Board subsequently updated the drought status from Stage II Alarm Drought to NO Drought on October 11th, 2018. The calendar year ended with some of the wettest December weather ever recorded. By New Year’s Eve, six inches of rain had fallen in Austin and the Hill Country for the month of December, more than two times the average. January 2019 provided about 3 additional inches, exceeding its historical average of 1.9 inches.
A combined 14 inches of spring rain fell in May and June 2019 providing even more recharge. Barton Springs flow quickly responded to the fall 2018 rains and additional spring 2019 rains to maintain an average daily spring flow of 100cfs throughout FY 2019. On June 14th, 2019, water level measurements in the Lovelady monitor well had risen to surpass the 3rd highest peak recorded in 2003 (536.0 ft-msl or 117.4 ft-dtw). 
Summer came with a drying trend. Below-average rainfall initiated a rapid decline at the Lovelady well beginning July 15th. This decrease has continued through a dry fall season and is projected through the winter.

To summarize, the Austin/Hill Country area has received an average 27 inches of rainfall in 2019, producing significant recharge for local aquifers. However, official forecasts point toward drier and milder-than-normal conditions across Central Texas, which will likely result in further declines as 2020 gets underway. We hope spring will bring its usual upward swing of recharge to keep our aquifers well-supplied. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

2019 Neighborhood Site Visits Complete

This year’s Neighborhood Site Visit program is a collaboration between the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. Staff visited 46 wells in three areas: Falconwood/Summer Mt. Ranch/Hugo, Hilliard, and Saddleridge.
Staff estimated levels at each well using a hand-held sonic meter and were able to verify the sonic measurement with the eline at 38 of the 46 wells. In the coming weeks, the depth-to-water measurements will be converted to water-level elevations and compared to readings from nearby monitor wells. This Neighborhood Site Visit water level snapshot will help ensure that the monitoring network is representative of water levels in the neighborhoods and enhance that network where there are data gaps. These data will be useful in tracking long-term water level changes due to drought and wet periods.  
Staff used nitrate/nitrite test strips to screen for a surface water contaminant. High levels of nitrates can indicate contamination by fertilizer, septic systems, or livestock or wildlife feces and can endanger human health. Some of the water samples analyzed did contain detectable but low levels of nitrate or nitrite, but all were below the maximum concentration deemed acceptable for drinking water by the EPA. If you ever notice a change in color, taste, or smell, you should have your well water analyzed by an accredited lab.  
Additionally, staff used a Horiba multiparameter probe to measure basic water-chemistry such as pH, conductivity, and total dissolved solids (TDS).  Conductivity is a measure of how easily electricity can pass through a sample; the more dissolved particles in the water, the higher the conductivity. As water is stored underground, it dissolves particles from its host rocks. How long the water has been underground (its residence time) and how easily the host rock is dissolved (a product of the rocks' chemical composition) influences the conductivity readings. 
Many thanks to all the well owners who participated in this program! Results and more about the Trinity Aquifer will be presented at a library near you in December. Click the link HERE to find out more.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Needmore Index Well

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 510 ft-msl (144 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs approximately: 61 cfs (10-day average)

The Amos Well has been established as an index well for the currently 
proposed Needmore Permit. Compliance requirements will be based 
on data collected at Amos. Just as the District's Lovelady well helps 
determine drought response, water levels at Amos will dictate 
pumpage reductions for Needmore. See the proposed 
Needmore Permit Notice for more information about the effort to 
protect surrounding groundwater users.

District staff is working to make real-time water level 
data publicly viewable.  While the best methods for 
monitoring and displaying data are finalized, staff 
will manually update the hydrograph every few 
weeks to keep the community informed. This data 
will build on records collected by the 
Hays-Trinity GCD (HTGCD).

Monday, November 4, 2019

Trinity Aquifer Sustainable Yield Study

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 518 ft-msl (136 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs approximately: 79 cfs (10-day average)

Click here to link to the interactive monitor sites webmap

The sustainable yield of an aquifer is the amount of groundwater that can be pumped from the aquifer without causing unreasonable impacts to other water-supply wells and springs. The Trinity Aquifer is the primary groundwater supply for Hill Country residents in Hays and Travis Counties, and Trinity Aquifer springs help sustain iconic Hill Country streams. With limited water resources and exceptional population growth in Hays and Travis Counties, the effects of groundwater pumping are already being seen with reduced spring flow and long-term lowering of water levels in the Trinity Aquifer and underscore the importance of science-based policies.

On October 22, Hays County approved an interlocal agreement that will involve installation of two groundwater monitor wells near Jacob’s Well and sampling of groundwater in the vicinity of Jacob’s Well. On October 1, Travis County approved the continuation of groundwater study for southwest Travis County. Recent strong support from Hays and Travis Counties provides funding that will help fill critical data gaps for the Trinity Aquifer Sustainable Yield Study.
For over 10 years, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (District) has been collaborating with the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and local and regional organizations to study the Trinity Aquifers of Hays and Travis Counties. Since annexation of an additional portion of Hays County into the District in 2015 (with passage of House Bill 3405), these efforts have increased substantially. These efforts include geologic investigations, aquifer recharge studies, water-level studies, water-quality analyses, aquifer (pumping) tests, development of a conceptual model, and groundwater modelling.

To effectively manage an aquifer system, scientists and managers must have a good understanding of how the aquifer functions. This is the foundation for science-based policies. Understanding of aquifer dynamics comes from a broad spectrum of studies and data. From these studies, scientists and groundwater managers can determine the sustainable yield of an aquifer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

6th Annual Texas Hydro Geo Workshop - October 4-6, 2019

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 531 ft-msl (122 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs approximately95 cfs (10-day average)

The 6th Texas Hydro Geo Workshop is scheduled for Friday, October 4th through Sunday, October 6th at Cave without a Name near Boerne, Texas. To register, visit https://hydrogeoworkshop.org/ Note that registration two weeks before the event has already exceeded last year’s attendance numbers so this is going to be a large event. Note that registration is capped at 300 people. 

The Workshop will have have more than 40 modules scheduled this year including a number of new modules related to aquatic biology, herpetology and mudlogging. There will also be three contests so make sure you bone up on your rock identification skills, bring a lunch for the field lunch contest, and the Yodeling and Hog Calling contest which is looking very competitive this year. We have a Professor from West Virginia University that has been practicing for the event for the last two months.

The program guide for this year’s event is now on line. You can find it at  https://hydrogeoworkshop.org/docs/HGWProgramGuide18.pdf.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Routine Hydrocarbon Sampling

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 538 ft-msl (116 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately: 105 cfs (10-day average)

Several operational pipelines cross the District territory. In 2013 the Magellan pipeline (formerly Longhorn pipeline) changed operation of the line; and in response, the District in cooperation with Magellan Midstream Partners, LLC, began a routine water quality monitoring program that screens groundwater for hydrocarbons that could be sourced from petroleum pipelines (and other sources). Each year District staff samples water from several springs and sentinel wells and since 2013 there have been no detections.

The 2019 annual screening had no detections of hydrocarbons at the eight spring and well monitoring sites. Water samples were analyzed for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) and volatiles (BTEX: Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Xylenes, and MTBE, Methyl tert-butyl ether).

Friday, June 28, 2019

Lovelady Reaches 3rd Highest Water Level on Record

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 537 ft-msl (116 ft-Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately: 107 cfs (10-day average)

The water level in the Lovelady monitor well has risen to surpass the 3rd highest peak recorded in 2003 (536.0 ft-msl or 117.4 ft-dtw). It is expected that the water level will continue to rise while recharge creeks continue to flow. A combined 14 inches of rain in May and June has provided tremendous recharge. The District's recharge enhancement facility, Antioch, in Onion Creek is currently taking recharge. The City of Austin staff report that Onion Creek features on the Water Quality Protection Lands are also receiving recharge.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that we’ll remain in an El Nino advisory through the summer, bringing “cooler-than-normal” and “wetter-than-normal” conditions.
Lovelady water levels would have to climb another 9 feet to pass 2016’s 2nd highest peak (545 ft-msl) and 11.3 ft to pass 1992’s 1st highest peak. While water levels in the Edwards Aquifer are currently at record highs, the hydrograph period of record shows that drought will eventually return. Water conservation now helps extend the period of time out of drought and preserve water storage.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Statewide Drought Status: May 2019

No Drought
Lovelady well height: 533 ft-msl (121 ft- Depth to Water)
Barton Springs: approximately: 113 cfs 10-day average

An average rainfall of 10 inches through the Texas Hill Country this May 2019 has area creeks flowing and the Edwards and Trinity aquifer recharging.

For a summary of Texas' drought status: Click Here.


  • Large parts of East and Central Texas receive more that 10 inches of rain over the past month
  • Recent rains have erased drought from the Texas landscape
  • Statewide reservoir storage increases
  • The odds of El Nino staying with us through the summer have increased to 70 percent