Photo: Mark Holly

Drought

The Texas Hill Country experienced severe drought conditions in 2011 and we are not out of the woods. As a community, we have to pay attention to how we manage our water supply for future generations. Droughts will continue and the serious effects of drought are compounded by increased water use, water permitting policy, population growth, climate, land-use and land stewardship practices. Current drought conditions are updated daily by region on the Texas Water Development Board website. Here you will also find links to national drought index links such as the Palmer Severity Index and the US Drought Monitor.

Groundwater Districts across the region are updating restrictions and local water utilities are implementing drought management plans regularly. Locate a current map and list of utility restrictions here.

HCA recently published a helpful report about Hill Country Groundwater. This is a very easy to read and comprehensive guide to groundwater science, management and policy. A printable 11×17 PDF can be downloaded here, or view an online version here.

Groundwater districts have been working together to plan for how to manage the resource in times of severe drought and they have set goals for how much drawdown they believe the region can bare. This is a highly debated process and the 30 foot drawdown goal that has been approved by GMA 9 is still considered by many to be unsustainable. Learn more here.

The Hill Country and all of Central Texas also experienced a severe drought between 2007 and 2009, which highlighted the challenges we face in regard to managing our water supply. Pressure from our rapidly growing population has substantially increased demand for water, and our location in a climate border region (between drier areas in West Texas and the wetter regions to the East) means that the Hill Country has a naturally variable climate that includes droughts and floods. Future droughts are a virtual certainty, and rapid growth makes it even more important that we do a good job managing the limited water supply we have.

During a drought, less rainfall is available to bolster supplies and meet human needs. Through water conservation measures, such as limiting outdoor watering, we can reduce demand and preserve existing supplies. This helps to ensure that adequate water is available through the full course of a drought. To maximize success, all water users must participate.

Texas public water utilities are required by law to file drought contingency plans with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which lay out trigger points for reducing demand through restrictions on water use. Groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) address drought management through their district management plans. Links to Hill Country drought contingency plans and information from TCEQ can be found below.

Learn about Drought in the Hill Country, presentation created by Raymond Slade, Chair HCA Technical Advisory Committee

Read Raymond Slade’s Presentation on Current and Future Water Shortages

Staggering photographs of 2011 Drought from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Drought News

River Revival: Restoring a once-vital waterway with recycled wastewater

The Santa Cruz River once flowed year-round in Tucson, AZ, supporting one of the largest mesquite forests in the world.  But urban development and extensive groundwater withdrawals in recent years caused the river’s volume to dwindle. Today, city administrators hope to use recycled effluent to restore the river’s flow to historic levels and revive riparian habitats...…

Austin’s on the wrong side of the 100th meridian

The invisible line that divides the arid western part of the country from the wetter eastern half is on the move, and that has important implications for the Texas capital. Meet Robert Lee. Not the Confederate general, the town. Robert Lee, Texas is a ranching community of 1,025 that lost its only source of water to…

San Marcos Urges Water Conservation As Aquifer Level Falls

The City of San Marcos is urging water conservation because of rapidly dropping aquifer levels and the prospect of Stage 2 drought rules quickly approaching. Stage 2 is implemented when the 10-day average Edwards Aquifer index well level falls below 650 feet above mean sea level (msl). Monitoring wells indicate the aquifer level is dropping about…

In a Warming West, the Rio Grande Is Drying Up

Mario Rosales, who farms 365 acres along the Rio Grande, knows the river is in bad shape this year. It has already dried to a dusty ribbon of sand in some parts, and most of the water that does flow is diverted to irrigate crops, including Mr. Rosales’s fields of wheat, oats, alfalfa and New Mexico’s…