Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The drought persists, says state climatologist

Despite recent rains, much of Texas is still in a severe drought and the long-term outlook is mixed, according to Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Regents Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and state climatologist. .........

Click here for the full story.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Drought Status Downgraded to Alarm Stage II

The Board of Directors of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District eased drought restrictions from Stage III Critical Drought to Stage II Alarm at its Board meeting this evening, effective immediately. With above average rainfall this winter, soils reached saturation and runoff created enough creek flow to contribute some recharge to the aquifer. Both of the District’s drought triggers have now crossed back over their respective Stage II Alarm Drought thresholds. The Lovelady Monitor Well depth-to-water is above 190.7 feet and continues to rise; the Barton Springs 10-day average discharge is well above its 20 cubic feet per second threshold.

While water levels in the aquifer are on the rise, without continued above average rainfall, the District could find itself back in Stage III Critical Drought this summer. “In 2010, Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Hermine brought record rainfall to Central Texas. This time we've seen smaller, more frequent rain events that are finally causing slow rises in our monitoring wells,” commented Brian Smith, Principal Hydrogeologist with the District.

Under Stage II restrictions, permittees are now required to restrict monthly pumping by at least 20% for historical permits and from 20 to 50% for conditional permits, depending on permit class. Water utilities supplied by groundwater in the District will restrict outdoor water use to comply with watering schedules that each of them established, and that the District approved. Though Stage II Alarm Drought restrictions generally allow for some outdoor water use, groundwater users should continue to conserve and maintain a monthly water use of less than 4,000 gallons per person (less than 16,000 gallons for a family of 4).

“Our region's hydrologic drought is not over. Water levels in the aquifers are still low,” noted Kirk Holland, the District’s General Manager, “but we finally received enough rain in the right places to start having some effective replenishment of the aquifer. However, all our groundwater users need to continue to conserve water and use it wisely. High water use and dry conditions could send us back into Stage III Critical Drought this summer.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February Rainfall continues wet trend

Rainfall totals of 2-3 inches in Central Texas today (2/18/12) extends the trend of above-normal rainfall to 4 months. Onion Creek and other contributing creeks flowed for brief periods today and provided some additional modest recharge--adding to the recent trend. The District's Board members will deliberate the drought stage declaration next week at its bi-monthly Board Meeting. We are currently in Critical Stage III Drought. As of this evening Barton Springs has risen to near 70 cfs and well above its drought threshold. However, without more rain that flow will drop relatively quickly--but how fast is the unknown. The second drought trigger, the Lovelady water level, is currently within its Alarm Stage drought threshold. Both drought triggers need to be out of a particular drought stage for the Board to remove or lessen a drought status. While the Board could change the drought status from Critical Stage III to Alarm Stage II, they may wait to see how the aquifer responds to avoid jumping out of Critical to Alarm, only to potentially go back in to Critical in the near future. Later in the week we should have a better understanding of the effects of this additional recharge to the aquifer and the Board can make a more informed decision.

Below is an image courtesy of the LCRA Hydromet system showing rainfall over the past 48 hours (captured 2.18.12 10:00pm). As of 10 pm all contributing creeks are flowing, but receding, with peak flows having generally occurred in the early afternoon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February Aquifer Update

Drought status: Critical
Barton Springs: 50 cfs (temporarily near long-term average)
Lovelady: 190.3 ft (above Critical, within Alarm Stage)

Despite the past 3 months of above-average rainfall, which did produce some recharge, we remain firmly within groundwater drought conditions. The rise in flow at Barton Springs will most certainly be fleeting, unless we get more rainfall. However, conditions are wet and the recharge that has occurred recently may allow for the Board to "upgrade" our drought status to Alarm. That will be discussed at the February 23rd Board Meeting. A little more time is needed to evaluate the recharge that has occurred and to see if the flow and levels will remain above Critical for more than just a couple weeks. We don't want to jump in and out of different drought declarations.

The short-term forecast (14 days) is for a wetter than normal period. That is good considering how wet things are and could result in even more runoff and recharge. And although the long-term predictions (3 month) are for drier-than-normal conditions--the previous long-term predictions have been wrong. The reason is this La Nina has been unusually wet and very different from normal La Nina--let's hope that continues. The Climate Prediction Center just issued a statement that La Nina is expected to transition to ENSO Neutral conditions in Marh-May. Thus, a return to more normal climatic conditions. Significant improvement in the drought could occur if we receive rainfall during during the Spring.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Continuing winter wet trend helps alleviate drought conditions... a little bit

November-January have all seen above average rainfall for Central Texas. The recent rains have resulted in a down-grading of the meteorological drought severity index in central Texas according to the US Drought monitor (click here for a map). Parts of Travis and Hays Counties are now listed as "extreme to severe" rather than "exceptional" drought status.

Although the aquifer remains in Critical Stage drought, the recent rains have provided some modest recharge. The rains last night provided additional runoff and resulting recharge--Onion Creek appears to have some flow in the creek today. It is possible that the aquifer might receive enough recharge to move up one drought stage to Alarm in the next few weeks. However that will only be short-lived if the creeks don't continue to flow. We'll have to wait and see how the aquifer responds from this latest rainfall. However, we should note that we are still in a drought, and with La Nina projected into the Spring, and with summer (and heaving pumping) approaching, we have to continue to be conservative with water and our drought declarations.