Thursday, June 9, 2022

Aquifer District Declares Stage II Alarm Drought

 

Aquifer District Declares Stage II Alarm Drought

 

For Immediate Release: June 9, 2022
For more information, contact: David Marino, Communications & Outreach Manager at (512) 282-8441 or dmarino@bseacd.org

On June 9, 2022, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s Board of Directors declared Stage II Alarm Drought at its regular Board Meeting. The District’s drought triggers, Lovelady Monitor Well and Barton Springs, passed below their drought triggers in late May and early June respectively. Only one of the two drought stage triggers 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 last groundwater drought declaration commenced on October 9, 2020, and ended on July 8, 2021. While the weather is getting warmer, strengthening La Niña (dry) conditions indicates it may be getting drier. So far, we have received below average rainfall every month this year except for February and above average heat. May 2022 was the warmest May on record for Austin. The average temperature in May was 82.3 degrees. That number was calculated by combining the high and low for each day.

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

  • 20% for Edwards Historical and Conditional Class A permittees,
  • 50% for Edwards Conditional Class B permittees,
  • 100% for Edwards Conditional Class C and Class D permittees, and
  • 20% for Trinity and Alluvial/Austin Chalk Historical permittees

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 and refilling, and non-essential water use such as water fountains, is sufficient to reach monthly pumpage targets for Stage II Alarm Drought. July is the first month that permittees will need to meet reductions in pumpage. Permittees should refer to the monthly drought allocations listed in their User Drought Conservation Plan (UDCP) and Drought Target Charts.

The District encourages continued conservation, with July and August often being the hottest and driest times of the year. In the summer months, outdoor water use is significantly higher and can account for 60% or more of home water use. 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.

Useful links:

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

2021 Drought and Aquifer Status In Review

The year 2021 began with a status of Stage II Drought as below-average rainfall during the summer of 2020 wasn’t enough to keep levels from declining towards Stage II Drought thresholds. By early October 2020, Barton Springs and Lovelady crossed under their Stage II Drought thresholds and the BSEACD Board declared an Alarm Stage II Drought on October 8. Levels declined throughout the fall and winter as La Niña conditions - beginning in July 2020 - brought warmer and drier climate to the Hill Country leading into 2021.   

 Rainfall in 2021 began with a combined 3.5 inches of rain from January to March (3 inches below historical average), perpetuating the downward spring flow and water level trend. While some relief came with over 3 inches of rainfall in April, little recharge was seen as the dry soils soaked most of it up. The increased soil moisture from April rain set the stage for 8 inches of rain in May to generate enough recharge to reverse the downward spring flow and water level trends. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) officially declared the end of La Niña in May 2021, beginning an ENSO-neutral (neither La Niña or El Niño) period that allowed for above average mid-spring and summer rainfall totals of 20.4 inches. Barton Springs and Lovelady water levels began to rise on May 1st for the first time since July 2020.  

 A combined 15 inches of spring rain fell March - June 2021, providing enough recharge to overcome the dry La Niña winter and reverse the falling spring flow and aquifer trend. With both Barton Springs and Lovelady water levels rising above their respective Alarm Stage II Drought thresholds, the BSEACD Board declared “No Drought conditions'' on July 8, 2021. An additional 7 inches fell in July and August. On August 25, Lovelady water levels began to decline, looking as if the No Drought period would be short-lived. The CPC officially declared the return of La Niña on October 14, 2021, which, oddly coincided with up to 6 inches of rainfall in the Hill Country the day before. This brought considerable recharge as stream gauges on all area creeks showed rises. Spring flow and water levels showed a rising response.   

 To summarize, the Austin/Hill Country area has received an average 36.4 inches of rainfall so far in 2021 (through December 7th), about 1 inch above the annual average, which means we will finish 2021with an above-average year. This may be due to the 6-month ENSO-Neutral period from March to October 14, 2021. While this might have allowed us to pass the 35.5 annual average, La Niña has officially developed again and is expected to continue into 2022. This could bring drier and milder-than-normal conditions across Central Texas, which will likely result in further declines as 2022 gets underway. Hopefully, spring of 2022 will bring its usual upward swing of recharge to keep the aquifers well-supplied.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Drought and Aquifer Status Update - Oct. 22, 2021

 The 2021 Central Texas summer has been noticeably mild, with temperatures in the Hill Country cooled by rainy and overcast days. This summer, Camp Mabry in Austin counted 31 days with measurable rain. That makes it the third rainiest summer when it comes to days of rainfall in the 123 years of record keeping. Between early June and Late September we received a rainfall total of 10.5 inches with July and August reporting above-average numbers.

While the above-average rainfall over the summer provided enough to keep vegetation on the surface nice and green, it wasn’t enough to generate substantial aquifer recharge to keep Edwards water levels at the Lovelady monitoring well from falling. Upper Trinity levels saw a substantial rise due to a combined 11 inches in April and May and have maintained elevated levels since. Middle Trinity levels have been declining since late June.

Aquifer levels in the Edwards and Middle Trinity continued to decline through a particularly dry September until heavy rain fell on September 9th. The heaviest amounts were seen in central Hays County, recording between 1 to 6 inches (texmesonet.org). The Austin area saw between 0.5 to 4 inches. Even this amount of rain didn’t generate much recharge because the very dry surface soils soaked up most of it. With increased soil moisture due to that rainfall, the stage was set for the next rain event to produce more runoff to recharge.

That rain came on October 13th as an average of 4.2 inches spread across the Hill Country. Some areas received up to 6 inches. This brought considerable recharge as stream gauges on all area creeks showed rises. This includes the Blanco River at Wimberley, where flow peaked at 11,400 cubic feet per second (cfs), Jacobs Well Spring & Cypress creek peaked at 361 cfs, Onion creek near Driftwood saw peak flow of 2,400 cfs and Barton Creek above Barton Springs reached 950 cfs just to name a few. Water levels as of October 19th in Edwards, Upper Trinity and Middle Trinity aquifers have seen a positive response to the rains (Figure 1). As of October 19th Lake Buchanan is 89% full and Lake Travis is 73% full.

Figure 1
Gray boxes show wet periods. Water-level data from three monitor wells.

So far in 2021 we have received a total of 33 inches of rain, just 2.5 inches below the annual average, which means we could finish 2021 with an above-average year. This may be due to a 6 month ENSO-neutral (neither La Nina or El Nino) period from March to October 14th. This neutral period has allowed for sufficient rainfall to bring us close to the 35.5 annual average.

According to the latest advisory from the Climate Prediction Center, La Nina officially developed on October 14th and is expected to continue into 2022. Remember that La Nina typically brings a warmer and drier climate to Central Texas. For more on La Nina visit here.

It was 10 years ago, in 2011, that climate experts blamed one of the worst droughts since the 7-year drought of the 1950s on the La Nina phenomenon. 2011 was the driest year ever for Texas with only 14.8 inches of rain.

Hopefully we can expect more rainfall before the end of the year even with the recently developed La Nina. As drought conditions always loom in Central Texas, it’s important that we continue our community effort to conserve water.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Potential La Nina Return for the 2021/22 Winter Season.

 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast a ~70% probability that La Nina will reemerge by early winter of 2021/21, which would be the second winter in a row. La Nina conditions in the southwestern US typically bring warmer temperatures and below-average rainfall. This feels discouraging as Central Texas groundwater levels have began to drop in late August.

The bright side is La Nina conditions in the the western US typically brings increased rainfall. This possible return of La Nina would be a welcomed change for our friends in the western US, who have endured terrible drought and the accompanying extreme heat and devastating wildfires.


Read more from NOAA's ENSO Blog here.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Spring and Summer 2021 Aquifer Conditions and Drought Status

 

Since the beginning of 2021, the Hill Country - Edwards and Trinity Aquifer region has received a little over 18 inches of rainfall, providing some relief to the Stage II Alarm Drought (declared on October 8, 2020). Consistent small rain events in March and April raised soil-moisture content (amount of water present in the soil), priming the area for runoff conditions. Ten inches received in May and June - usually the two wettest months of the year - produced above-average rainfall, generating plenty of runoff to area creeks and much needed aquifer recharge. On May 1st 2021 Lovelady, the District’s drought index well, began to rise for the first time since July 2020.

 

Figure 1.


In response to the May-June rainfall, aquifer level at the Lovelady monitor well and springflow at Barton Springs have both risen above Alarm Stage II drought triggers (Figure 1). Lake Travis water levels have also seen an increase of about 7 feet since January 2021. The BSEACD weather station has reported 2.7 inches in June and 1.3 inches so far in July, about 0.7 inches below the month’s historical average, but rain chances persist in July. 

 

Happily, the majority of Texas is out of meteorological drought status, with only a few areas in West Texas demonstrating “abnormally dry” to “severe drought” conditions (Figure 2). For updated information on the drought status throughout Texas, refer to the United States Drought Monitor.

 

Figure 2

 

With both Barton Springs and the Lovelady water level currently above their respective Alarm Stage 2 drought triggers the BSEACD Board declared “No Drought” conditions at the July 8, 2021 board meeting. For the District to declare drought conditions, either Lovelady water levels or Barton Springs flow 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.

 

The spring and early summer rains have helped lift us out of drought. However, July and August are historically very hot and dry months, and without additional rainfall this wet trend may reverse resulting in drops in springflow and aquifer levels. Figure 3 shows 2020 Lovelady water level trends juxtaposed to 2021 trends. The green line indicates 2020 water levels significantly increasing due to March-May rainfall, then declining back into drought within 77 days of the dry summer season. 2021 currently demonstrates the same pattern, with a much more dramatic increase during the rainy months. With the clear correlations moving through the spring, we might predict a similar decline through summer 2021 without additional rain.


Figure 3

 

According to an unknown state meteorologist from Texas in 1927, “Texas is a land of perennial drought broken by the occasional devastating flood. “We see this statement ring true as 2021 rolls into summer. For now, we exit drought status. Drought will always be a concern for our beloved home state, so let’s maintain our dedication to conserving our most precious natural resource. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

World Geologist Recognition Day!

 Stage II Alarm Drought

Lovelady Well Height: 465 ft-msl

Barton Springs: approximately 33 cfs 10-day average


Geologists Day is celebrated annually on the first Sunday of April throughout the world. It was established by a group of well-known Soviet geologists in April 1966. A geologist is a scientist who studies the Earth’s physical structure and substances, the history of rocks, the processes that act on them, as well as the organisms that inhabit the earth. They work to understand the history of the planet we live on, to better predict the future and explain current occurrences. Geologists are involved in the discovery of resources that are used in all aspects of our daily lives.

There are many types of geologists, including hydrogeologists. Hydrogeology deals with how water gets into the ground (recharge), how it flows in the subsurface (through aquifers) and how groundwater interacts with the surrounding soil and rock (the geology). The District wants to recognize Brian Smith, Principal Hydrogeologist, Justin Camp, Hydrogeologist Technician, and Jeff Watson, Staff Hydrogeologist for their contributions and hard work in the world of hydrogeology.

 Happy Geologists Day!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqeQGGPkNMw


Friday, February 12, 2021

Jacobs Well Monitoring

 

 As La Nina conditions persist - bringing warmer and drier climate to Central Texas - so do drought conditions in the Edwards and Trinity aquifers. This includes the Trinity fed Jacobs Well Spring (JWS) in Wimberley. Flow reported at the JWS gauge nears 0.0 cubic feet per second (cfs). JWS serves as a drought stage indicator for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) within the Jacobs Well Groundwater Management Zone.

For HTGCD to protect groundwater supplies and JWS flow they have been busy coordinating with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) to ensure that the data reporting at the JWS gauge are as accurate as possible. For more info on Jacobs Well monitoring visit here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

2020 Aquifer Status In Review

Stage II Alram Drought

Lovelady Well Height: 469 ft-msl

Barton Springs: approximately 30 cfs 10-day average


Year 2020 began with a status of No Drought due to a very wet 2018, but below-average rainfall in 2019 caused water levels and spring flow to enter a downward trend beginning in late July. The declining trend continued with below-average rainfall up to 2020. The new year started out very wet with a combined 11 inches of rain from January to April (3 inches above historical average) reversing the downward trend and avoiding crossing drought thresholds in mid-March. A total of 35 inches of rain as of mid-December 2020 has provided much needed recharge to the Edwards and Trinity Aquifers, but not enough to reverse the downward trend. On October 8, 2020, the Board declared Stage II Alarm Drought.

 To look back in more detail, a combined 14 inches of spring rain fell in May and June 2020 providing even more recharge to that provided in January through April. Barton Springs flow quickly responded to these rains, propelling spring flow further away from drought triggers. The below-average rainfall in the fall of 2019 and additional spring 2020 rains maintained an average daily spring flow of 58 cfs throughout 2020.

The wet spring only temporarily held off drought as summer came with a drying trend that brought water levels and spring flow back into decline beginning in early July. September provided 7 more inches of rain but did little to reverse the downward trend. This decrease has continued through a dry fall season and on October 8, 2020, the Board declared Stage II Alarm Drought. The last groundwater drought declaration commenced on July 12, 2018 and ended on October 11, 2018. This dry period is projected through the winter and into spring 2021, as we enter a La Nina year bringing drier and warmer conditions to the southern United States.

To summarize, the Austin/Hill Country area has received an average 36 inches of rainfall so far in 2020, producing recharge for local aquifers. However, below-average rainfall in 2019 and a relatively dry summer and fall 2020 hasn’t provided enough recharge to stay above Stage II Alarm Drought. Official forecasts point toward the La Nina effect bringing drier and milder-than-normal conditions across Central Texas, which will likely result in further declines as 2021 gets underway. Hopefully, spring of 2021 will bring its usual upward swing of recharge to keep the aquifers well-supplied.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

La Nina in the Tropical Pacific and its Implications on Central Texas


Stage II Alram Drought

Lovelady Well Height: 476 ft-msl

Barton Springs: approximately 38 cfs 10-day average

 In September 2020 the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) issued a La Nina advisory suggesting that there's a 75% chance it hangs around through the winter. Come this October an increased 85% chance it lasts through winter and into spring 2021.

So what is La Nina? What does it mean for weather and rain in Central Texas?

La Nina is the opposite of El Nino, a cooling of the equatorial east-central Pacific Ocean. The strength of the 2020 La Nina (weak, moderate or strong) will determine what impacts it may have on the weather this winter to next spring 2021. Typically, the southern tier of the U.S. sees drier than average conditions and temperatures that are above average, while much of the Pacific Northwest and the Ohio Valley are wetter than normal and see below average temperatures. (Weather Channel)










As of October 8th the Edwards and Trinity aquifers are in Alarm Stage II Drought. Due to a lack of rain and recharge in 2020 and the ensuing La Nina leading into 2021 it is paramount that we practice proper conservation techniques. For more info on the La Nina outlook visit: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/department/enso-blog