Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s. Learn about the Bureau of Economic Geology research the Rabke’s are participating in. Read the full story from Mose Buchele at State Impact.
There is nothing more important to our communities than a reliable water supply – our homes, our businesses, our very lives, depend on it. As we enter the seventh summer of this severe drought – and despite the recent rain in Central Texas – it is more essential than ever that everyone in the lower Colorado River basin do their part to conserve water. Read more
The Trinity Aquifer and the Upper Guadalupe River are major components of the hill country’s available water supply. While these water resources typically do not receive as much attention as the more prominent Edwards Aquifer, for example, with the rapidly growing population in this part of the state their importance has never been more crucial. Read more from Livestock Weekly.
Across the Hill Country, other aquifers, which provide vital spring water for many rivers, are very low and many of their springs and seeps have dried up. These aquifer-fed springs are not only key to local ranchers, but to maintaining river flows in the upper Nueces, Guadalupe and Colorado river basins. Read full article by Mike Mecke in Ranch and Rural Living Magazine.
Express-News staff photographer Bob Owen and staff writer Richard Oliver traveled the state from May through September to tell the stories of people whose lives have been changed by the drought. Read the four-part series.
National meteorologists expect the drought to continue or worsen through late summer and early fall in Texas, and ocean patterns are troublingly similar to those during the “drought of record” in the 1950s. More from State Impact.
Early last year, Spicewood Beach became the first Texas town to run out of water during the current drought. Since then, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), which owned and managed the community’s water system, has been trucking approximately 32,500 gallons of water per day to the small community, and an extra 6,500-gallon truckload on weekends. More from State Impact
Central Texas’ two largest reservoirs, Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan, are at 41 percent capacity, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority, LCRA, website. Those low levels aren’t likely to improve much in the coming months, as the NOAA outlook anticipates warmer and drier weather through June. Read more from State Impact.
At some point, the realities of water in Texas will reach a point where it is impossible to lay all of the drought’s harm on someone else. Lawns — and whether to keep them in the face of a protracted water shortage — come into the argument. Read more from Texas Tribune.
If conditions continue unabated, the Edwards Aquifer Authority for the first time in its history, will declare Uvalde County to be in Stage 5, thus triggering a 44-percent cut in pumping.” Read full article from Uvalde-Leader News.
The 2011 drought was not as impactful as the “drought of record” during the 1950s. In the wake of that terrible decade, Texas embarked on a massive campaign of infrastructure construction to achieve water security. But the situation is different now, and this time we cannot simply build our way out of a water crisis. Read more from Statesman.com.
In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, water shortages are shaping up as a crisis not just for farmers but also for entire cities this year, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert. In 2009, the area experienced the worst drought in decades, as did much of the state, but this year is shaping up to be much worse for area residents, said Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station. Read More
Water levels at lakes Travis and Buchanan remain low, and with slim chances for respite from the drought anytime soon, Burnet County officials have called a meeting Wednesday to brief residents and businesses on water issues. More from Statesman.com
As Texas enters a third year of drought, San Antonio Water System is bracing for the possibility that Stage III water restrictions may be activated for the first time in the city’s history as early as March. More from Rivard Report
A plan to manage the competing uses of the Edwards Aquifer in a drought was approved Thursday and couldn't be more timely, as the region faces what may be one for the record books. More from SA Express-News
It is always difficult to force oneself to see the positive side of adversity. However, most people will readily admit that hardship, suffering and pain are not only a normal part of life, but are actually beneficial and desirable when viewed as part of the big picture. Read Steve Nelle's Riparian Notes for January 2013.
Facing a record-breaking drought with no end in sight, the Lower Colorado River Authority has again asked the state to allow us to not release water from the Highland Lakes for most downstream farmers this year unless substantial rainfall replenishes the reservoirs. LCRA’s Board of Directors took that action Jan. 8 for the second year in a row. Last year was the first time most rice farmers didn’t get any Highland Lakes water. Read More
“The water release planning for 2013 has been the subject of a collision of interests as drought drags on in the region,” Read the Statesman report here. This decision is described as “incomprehensible” by some, read the news from the Highland Lakes Highlander here. The bottom line is that everyone needs to conserve and start thinking a whole new way about water use, this battle has just begun.
Non-Edwards sources, such as the Trinity Aquifer and Canyon Reservoir are increasingly being exposed to the demands of the rapidly growing regional population surrounding San Antonio such as in Comal, Kendall and Hays counties. These areas of the Hill Country are subjected to repeated cycles of drought, with few, if any, alternative sources of water. Using water from sources like these for outdoor use to avoid water restrictions in San Antonio is done at the expense of others. Ultimately, it strains the availability of drinking water of others. Read more from HCA's Milan Michalec in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.
With Medina Lake just a puddle of its former self, the reservoir's dam gates are now closed to delay the lake from going dry until it starts to rain — really rain — again. Regardless, the level of the lake, now at roughly 13 percent capacity, is likely to keep falling because of evaporation and seepage. The decision by the dam's owner to close the gates last week is another benchmark of the drought's severity and persistence. Read more from SA Express-News.
We're in the worst drought in the United States since the 1950s, and we’re wasting it. For decades, Americans have typically handled drought the same way. We are asked to limit lawn-watering and car-washing, to fully load dishwashers and washing machines before running them, to turn off the tap while brushing our teeth. When the rain comes, we all go back to our old water habits. But just as the oil crisis of the 1970s spurred advances in fuel efficiency, so should the Drought of 2012 inspire efforts to reduce water consumption. Read full NY Times article.
The 2012 Texas Water Plan produced by the Texas Water Development Board reports that water supplies for the Hill Country are insufficient to meet projected municipal (urban and rural) water demands during the next severe drought. The report identifies 60 Hill Country municipal water suppliers (i.e. city utilities and water districts) that will have water shortages. For many of the suppliers, the water demands are substantially greater than the supplies. View Presentation by Raymond Slade, HCA Advisory Board and Technical Team member.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA ), for the first time in its history, has declared Stage IV mandatory pumping reductions for Edwards Aquifer users within the Uvalde Pool (Uvalde County). Read more from AACOG.
Drought may be a part of life in Texas, but last year's crisis left an indelible mark on the state and raised tough questions about its future. In a special report on the 2011 drought, KUT News, StateImpact Texas and Texas Monthly examine how the state will manage a growing population amid a shrinking water supply. More from Texas Tribune.
This week State Impact launched a new interactive webpage about the historic Texas drought, Dried Out. The page gives a visual sense of how intense the drought has been and its impact on the state. Share your stories on how the drought has affected your business, your home — or your way of life. Read More from NPR.
There is no way to overstate the severity of the drought. Last year Texas had its driest year on record, paired with some of the highest temperatures we’ve ever seen. But even as the situation has improved for some thanks to a relatively wet winter, other parts of the state are still in the worst stage of drought. HCA Advisor, Raymond Slade is interviewed in this story from NPR.
Most of Central and East Texas beat long odds with heavy rains this winter, but experts warned state lawmakers Thursday that the drought is far from over. State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said that the second year of a La Niña cycle — cooler temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that influence global weather patterns — produces a dry winter for Texas "4 times out of 5." But Nielsen-Gammon said it's a coin toss whether the recent winning streak will continue. "The (short-term) outlook is not particularly dire or good," he said. Read more from Statesman.com.
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. Read more from BSEACD.
For decades, the city drew most of its water from Lake Meredith...But Lake Meredith has fallen to historically low levels. “This year, for the first time in 40 years, it’s gone.” Read more from Texas Climate News.
Power generation, drinking water availability, agriculture, reservoirs and aquifers have all been threatened at best and decimated at worst by the state's current drought that has now spilled into a second year, water specialists speaking at the University of Texas said Monday. Read full Statesman.com article.
It's official. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the year 2011 was the driest on record. The average total rainfall across the state was 14.88 inches, beating the previous record low of 14.99 inches established in 1917. Now, more than ever, is the time for each of us to take an active role in water conservation in order to extend our existing water supplies. Without waiting for plans and finances or rains to catch up, there are ways to increase your water supply today. Read full Statesman.com commentary by HCA's Milan Michalec.
A Central Texas community has run out of water amid a statewide drought, prompting the Lower Colorado River Authority to start trucking in water. Read more from Statesman.com.
The well supplying water for about 1,100 residents near Spicewood Beach in Burnet County is at risk of running dry in two to three weeks because of prolonged drought conditions…"We are hopeful that conservation efforts will extend the life of the well, but even so, it is likely the well will become unusable in the next few weeks." Learn More
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be hosting drought emergency planning workshops throughout the state in January and February 2012. The workshops will provide local government officials, board members, and their water system operators information and tools to prevent and mitigate water outages. Learn More
After enduring the record-setting heat and dry conditions of 2011, drought-weary Texans are being greeted with forecasts of more of the same for the new year. Read more from TexasClimateNews.org.
A new study of tree rings adds to evidence that Texas has experienced at least one 10-year drought every 100 years, as well as several "mega-droughts" lasting 15 to 30 years over the centuries. Read full Texas Tribune article.
A historic drought has depleted Texas aquifers to lows rarely seen since 1948, and it could take months — or even years — for the groundwater supplies to fully recharge, scientists who study NASA satellite data said Wednesday. Read more from SA Express-News.
Reflecting statewide rainfall totals for most of 2011 that were well below 1956 levels and record low levels in local monitor wells, the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District implemented Stage Five of the drought contingency plan in June of 2011. The success of this effort to conserve groundwater can ultimately rest on the ability of a District to enforce rules. For coverage of a rare, but sometimes necessary, enforcement hearing in Kendall County. Read full SA Express-News article.
Water Specialist and HCA Advisory Board member, Mike Mecke, provides an overview of the current conditions of the primary lakes and rivers of Texas in the November edition of Ranch & Rural Living Magazine. Read article here.
Agricultural losses attributed to the drought have reached a record $5.2 billion, according to a report prepared by Texas A&M System's AgriLife Extension Service. Livestock losses alone are $2.06 billion. After factoring in losses for elevators, processing plants and other businesses that serve farmers and ranchers, the total economic impact hits $8.7 billion. Read full Statesman.com article.
Texas could be in the midst of a drought the history books have never seen, meaning water planners need to prepare for worse than what they've seen, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said Thursday. Read more from Statesman.com.
The water shortage in Texas can certainly use some prayers, and maybe even some rain dances. But it's going to take more than that — much more. That was the conclusion Saturday of panelists at a session called "The Coming Crisis Over Water." Read more from Go San Angelo.
Draft Water Plan Says Texas "Will Not Have Enough" "The primary message of the 2012 state water plan is a simple one," the introduction states. "In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises." Read full Texas Tribune article.
At a board meeting on Wednesday, the Lower Colorado River Authority approved an emergency plan that could cut off water supplies to downriver rice farmers entirely next year if the drought worsens. Read full Texas Tribune article.
A study released in 1979 showed just how close El Paso was to a water crisis. Over the next couple of decades the city took drastic measures to stabilize its water supply, undergoing a philosophical and physical facelift that included ripping up grass from many public places, installing rock and cactus gardens and offering financial incentives for residents to do the same. Today, El Paso is among the few cities in the drought-stricken state not worrying about water. Read full El Paso Times article.
“This story is just another example of how we are all in this together. No one city or person can use water without thinking about someone else's water needs. Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, "it is when the well is dry that we know the price of water." Texas may not yet know the price, but we are certainly understanding its value.” Read more from Amy Hardberger at EDF.
Government has always had a hard time telling Texans how to live. But the ban on most types of outdoor watering has been embraced by people in Llano, where a kind of World War II-era rationing spirit has become a way of life.” Read NY Times article here.
The Barton Spring Edwards Aquifer Conservation District issued an update this week about drought conditions, conservation and restrictions to expect. “The District asks all of its groundwater-using residents to continue their water conservation measures and be even better stewards of an increasingly scarce resource. A list of water conservation measures and more detailed information on aquifer conditions are available on District’s website at http://www.bseacd.org.” Read the Aquifer Bulletin here.
The water level of the Edwards Aquifer J-17 monitoring well has dropped more than two feet since Monday, putting San Antonio on the edge of triggering Stage 3 watering restrictions.Unless the region gets rain very soon, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and San Antonio Water System are predicting that sometime between next week and mid-September, outdoor watering with sprinklers and irrigation systems will be limited to one day every other week. Read full SA Express article here.
Water flowing into the Highland Lakes is down to a trickle, and Central Texas continues to break high temperature and low rainfall records. Experts now warn these drought conditions could continue into 2012. Given this reality, the National Wildlife Federation and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club urge our region's water providers to revisit their drought contingency plans and adopt stronger measures to reduce water use before our water supplies are further compromised. Read full Statesman.com opinion piece here.
These are more than just the dog days of summer in Austin. In addition to record temperatures, we are experiencing record drought. In fact, Lake Travis lost enough water in June to serve the entire City of Austin for a year. This week, both the Travis County Commissioners Court and the Austin City Council took major steps toward addressing these issues not just for the present, but also for future generations. Read full Statesman.com article here.
More than 99 percent of Texas is in some form of drought, and agricultural losses are more than $5.2 billion — the worst drought losses Texas has ever seen , according to a recent report released Wednesday by the Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service. The losses represent more than three months of agricultural production in an average year. Read full Statesman.com article here.
“Texas is going to get hotter and drier,” said Malcolm Cleaveland, a professor at the University of Arkansas who led the researchers. Indeed, rainfall modeling shows that rising temperatures and more arid conditions over the last few decades are likely to increase in the 21st century. Read full New York Times article here.
The Texas Water Journal takes a close look at weather patterns and statistics related to unique Hill Country water resource challenges. “Statistical relations of precipitation and stream runoff for El Niño and La Niña periods, Texas Hill Country. It’s not news that The Texas Hill Country is threatened by devastating long-duration droughts and short-duration floods, but understanding these patterns and just how fragile and vulnerable our water system is can help our region manage limited water resources sustainably.
Population in the Hill Country is projected to continue to rapidly increase, thus the number of folks threatened by a serious water shortage also will increase. Perhaps the only benefit might be that residents of the Texas Hill Country would create a long-term plan to prevent such situations from occurring in the future. It will take many people working together to achieve this goal. Read full SA Express article here.
A prolonged stretch of exceptionally dry weather is causing the drought across Texas and the lower Colorado River basin to intensify."This has been the driest nine months in Texas history - the absolute driest,” LCRA General Manager Becky Motal said. “This is a serious situation, but it’s not dire. Water flowing into the Highland Lakes is down to a trickle in places. Rest assured LCRA is managing the region’s water supply to make it through this exceptional drought, and we are asking everyone to use water as efficiently as possible and reduce water use wherever they can.” Read full from Statesman.com article here.
FLOODS, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other extreme weather have left a trail of destruction during the first half of 2011. But this could be just the start to a remarkable year of bad weather. Next up: drought. Read full New York Times article here.
Many hydrologists, as well as other scientists, have understood that the region has been long overdue for another serious drought. And the current drought could become much worse — it began only about a year ago, and past droughts in the area have lasted up to nine years. The benefit of a drought might be that residents of the Hill Country resolve to create a long-term plan to prevent such situations in the future. It will take many people working together to achieve this. Read full Statesman.com article here.
Range conditions, which have barely received five inches of rain since September 2010, have prompted Fredericksburg area cattle, sheep and goat producers to make some tough decisions about whether to keep their livestock and continue hoping for rain or to cut their losses by selling off all or part of their herds now. Read full Fredericksburg Standard article here.
The Texas drought has escalated into a significant natural disaster. Around the Panhandle, normally one of the most agriculturally productive regions of the state, acres of dry dirt fill would-be croplands. Lakes' levels are falling statewide. Cities are tightening water restrictions, amid the driest October-through-June stretch in Texas history. So what can the government do to help those who are hit hardest? Not much, at the state level, experts say. Read full Texas Tribune article here.
Texas is now nine months into one of the worst droughts in recorded state history, and it shows no signs of abating. That's bad news for city dwellers who must use ever less water for their lawns, but it's worse for many wildlife and fish, which find their habitats drying up. Read full Texas Tribune article here.
When drought hits Kendall County, trucker Troy Immel stops hauling milk. “In the short term, water is more profitable,” he said from the cab of his Kenworth tractor that pulls a 6,000-gallon tank. Working 12 hours or more a day, including weekends and holidays, Immel struggles to meet the growing demand for water in the Hill Country caused by a drop in production from wells drilled in the Trinity Aquifer. Read full SA Express article and watch video here.
Llano is entirely dependent on its namesake river for its community water supply. If the river stops flowing altogether — which could happen sometime next month — the city has estimated, conservatively, that it has 60 to 90 days of water storage in its reservoir, city manager Finley deGraffenried told the Tribune. Read the full Texas Tribune article here.
"Measured inflows from October 2010 through May 2011 have been the lowest for that eight-month period since the record began in 1942." Maps and statistics published by the LCRA illustrate the seriousness of our conditions.
Drought will cause $3 billion loss in Texas CRAWFORD, Texas - It looks like harvest time in Texas, but for fourth-generation farmer Bert Gohlke it's actually a financial disaster. His potential losses? More than a quarter of a million dollars - but that's just a fraction of the $3 billion the historic drought will cost Texas farmers and ranchers. Click here for CBS News story.
Sixth generation Texan, local columnist, Ed Mergele observes, “We have plowed up the grass lands, we have drilled holes to drain the aquifers that took thousands of years to fill, we have built millions of structures, roads, and parking lots over the once porous soil, so that the aquifers cannot possibly refill, and worst of all we have overpopulated an area that cannot support us.” Click here to read Ed’s column recently featured in the Hill Country Weekly.
This week The Texas Tribune is featuring the five part series about the LCRA,Water Fight, about the devastating drought’s affect on the diverse interests in the Highland Lakes. “Three major power plants are using about 45 percent more water now versus two years ago.”
Every five years, the Texas Water Development Board issues a frightening report about our water future. It's usually met with uncomprehending shrugs. The next report likely won't vary much from the last one — which found that 85 percent of Texans won't have adequate water in a drought by 2060 unless we come up with $30.7 billion worth of new water projects (although preliminary reports indicate the cost will be substantially higher). Read full SA Express-News article here.
On the cliffs surrounding Central Texas’ large Lake Buchanan, a white ring extends some 13 feet above the shoreline, marking where the water reaches when the lake is full. At nearby Lake Travis, staircases that once led to the water’s edge now end well above it. These two lakes serve as key water sources for dozens of cities and hundreds of farmers, as well as for several power plants. Read more from Texas Tribune here.
The lack of water and insects means many songbird chicks may die from lack of nutrition. Many parent songbirds may be dangerously weakened from lack of food before their migratory journey south in a few months. Read more from SA Express-News here.
The persistent drought has caused record declines in water tables in Kendall County, which gets its water from the Trinity Aquifer, and prompted one utility there to prohibit all outdoor watering. Read more from SA Express-News here.
Texas residents are asked to monitor and reduce their water usage, yet home and land owners may feel they have little control over resource conservation when it comes to manicured lawns and upkeep of green spaces. They may have heard of alternative gardening as a way to cut costs and save water, but may not know where to turn for advice or information. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife here.
With little prospect for rain in the foreseeable future, additional reductions in pumping from the Edwards Aquifer appear to be imminent, according to information presented Tuesday to the Edwards Aquifer Authority Board of Directors during its monthly meeting. In a report to the board, Authority staff indicated that soaring temperatures and the continued lack of rain are likely to result in further drought-induced pumping restrictions for Edwards Aquifer users across the region. Read more
At their June 13th, 2011 Board Meeting, the Cow Creek GCD’s Board of Directors moved from Drought Stage 4 - Severe Drought to Drought Stage 5 - Extreme Drought. General Manager Micah Voulgaris recommended the move, citing the lack of rainfall, historic lows in several of the District's monitor wells and the extremely low stream flow levels in the Guadalupe River. here.
As of Wednesday, the Llano River, which normally courses through town at 158 cubic feet per second this time of year, was flowing at 3.8 cubic feet per second — the slowest since 1953, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The river is the city's sole source of drinking water. Read full Statesman.com article here.
The water in the San Marcos River and Barton Springs may be more closely related than previously thought. It's long been believed that an underground divide separates the water flowing from two springs, but a new study has found that's not always the case. "The assumption was whatever happens in the San Antonio segment of the Edwards Aquifer doesn't really impact what's going on at Barton Springs and vice versa,” Todd Votteler with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority said. “But the study shows that's not necessarily true during these really serious droughts." Read full YNN story here.
In December, the old Gillespie County rancher looked back over the previous three months when less than a half-inch of rain had fallen on his land and said, “Surely things will get better soon.”...Over the past month, the county has slipped from moderate to severe drought status, according to the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index monitored by the Hill Country Underground Water Conservation District headquartered in Fredericksburg. Full article from here.
Texas' farmers and ranchers are coping with their eighth drought in the past 13 years, and this one, while still young, has a chance of slamming producers with their biggest losses ever, officials said. Read full SA Express article here.
In the latest sign of how dry the recent drought has been, Lower Colorado River Authority officials announced Wednesday that the flow of water from streams and creeks into the Colorado River over the past six months is worse than any similar period during the worst-ever drought. Read more from Statesman.com here.
At their April 11th Regular Meeting, the Board of Directors of the Cow Creek GCD voted unanimously to move from Stage 3 - Moderate Drought to Stage 4 - Severe Drought. General Manager Micah Voulgaris noted lack of rainfall, decline in water levels in 30 of the District’s monitor wells, below average stream flow in the Guadalupe River, and the seasonal increase in outdoor lawn irrigation as reasons for the move to Stage 4. Read more
With the lower Colorado River basin in the early stages of another drought, LCRA is offering two new ways for customers and the public to stay up to date on the drought. LCRA has created a web page to provide easy access to information and an e-newsletter to provide the latest drought news. Read more
Scarcely a year after one drought ended, another has gripped Central Texas. Parts or all of Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties are in a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federally funded service that tracks conditions across the country. Read full Statesman.com article here.
State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon told the Houston Chronicle that continuing dry weather is likely to persist at least into the spring. Nielsen-Gammon, who's also a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, says "it's probably going to get worse before it gets better." Read full Statesman.com article here.
Learn more from the Texas Drought Project
In Blanco County, we know what drought looks like. It looks like last summer, when creeks and ponds dried up and the grass went "crunch" under foot. What we see now, after six months of rain, is gorgeous green...full ponds, running streams, a record wildflower year, and even a little flash flooding this spring. Drought doesn't look like this. Last week, the forecasters said El Nino definitely is fading, and predicted a return to drought conditions within a few months. Read more here.
Despite scattered rainfall, the Colorado River basin remains in a severe drought that is affecting water supply, LCRA staff told the Board of Directors this week. As a result, LCRA is considering whether to take additional drought management actions. Read full LCRA media release here.
The most severe drought in the nation is drying up one of Austin's most treasured natural resources, the spring-fed Barton Creek Pool where more than 400,000 visitors from around the world flock each year. Read full SA Express story here.
Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service and the NRCS office have planned an educational program to be held on September 3 at the Pedernales Electric Coop Auditorium in Johnson City beginning at 6:00pm and concluding by 8:00pm. The program will address options available to cattlemen as they try and make sound management decisions as to what is best for them and the herd, as well as the rangeland. Read full Blanco County News article here.
The drought has gotten so bad in the Hill Country that when the twin grandchildren of Bob Sharpe visit his place near Nutty Brown Road, they have to take an outdoor "cowboy shower" by having grandmother Sue Sharpe dump water on them from a bucket. For three months, his well has been dry, so several times a day, Bob Sharpe steers his blue Chevy pickup to the nearby Cedar Valley Grocery, which gets its water from a Colorado River pipeline, to fill his 200-gallon plastic tank, plus a dozen emptied Newman's Own grape juice jugs strewn across the truck bed. Read full Statesman.com commentary here.
In the United States, we constantly fret about running out of oil. But we should be paying more attention to another limited natural resource: water. A water crisis is threatening many parts of the country -- not just the arid West. Read full article here.
The ongoing drought has kept water not only in the local headlines, but regionally throughout the Hill Country from San Antonio to Austin. As the drought persists, water availability, which by definition of State water planners is “the maximum amount of water available during the drought of record, regardless of whether the supply is physically or legally available”, is being reduced. Read full article here.
After the 1930s and the construction of the massive Highland Lakes, our water supply seemed more or less infinite. Today, with our regional population topping 1.6 million, it is becoming very clear that the reservoirs do indeed have a bottom. Read full Statesman.com commentary here.
Many more people have moved to the Hill Country since the last drought and have substantially increased demand on the water supply. “In some places, we have already exceeded a safe yield - water that is available during a drought,” Read the full article here.
After a wet first half of 2007, why did dry conditions return in late 2007 through early 2009? What are our rainfall prospects for the coming year? What are the long-term trends for rainfall in central Texas? How will global warming affect our rainfall patterns? Read full article by David M. Hillis here.
The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is proposing to create a new, extreme stage of drought that would require a 40% cutback in groundwater pumping for all permitted users. The proposal is one of a package of rule changes designed to respond more effectively to extreme and prolonged droughts, and to manage more equitably groundwater resources. Read full release here.
At the next turn of the century, with the Austin area looking something like today's Houston, Travis County will see a near-tripling in water demand. Williamson and Hays counties will require four or five times as much water as they do now, as our descendants will need water to drink, to bathe and to wash clothes and dishes. And on the Gulf end of the Colorado River, in Matagorda County, demand for water will roughly triple with new power plants requiring it to help cool their systems and power their turbines. Read full Statesman.com article here.
Each day without rain, the sparkling water of Medina Lake recedes farther from the homes at its edge, forcing those who take a dip to traverse a dusty moonscape of rocks and docks left high and dry. Across the region as water dwindles in lakes, rivers and wells, communities are hoping to avoid a repeat of conditions seen decades ago. Read full SA Express-News article here.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority today declared stage two of the region’s critical period management plan, further limiting how much groundwater can be pumped from the Edwards Aquifer across a seven-county area of south-central Texas. Citing declining aquifer levels that are the result of a continuing drought and seasonal demand on the aquifer, the Authority declared stage two for Edwards groundwater users within the San Antonio Pool of the Edwards Aquifer region. Read full media release here.
Groundwater users in the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District expressed concerns about groundwater supplies holding up if the current Critical Stage drought worsens. The District held town two hall meetings on June 2 and June 8 in Sunset Valley and Buda to review and get feedback on proposed rule changes that would better prepare the District to regulate and conserve groundwater resources during extreme drought. Read full release here.
Return to Drought
What is your vision of the Hill Country that future generations will inherit? The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) asks this question as it calls for photographs for its 2016 calendar. The annual HCA photo contest opens on March 1 and runs through May 31. Winners receive cash prizes and their photos will appear in the popular HCA calendar and in the organization’s various educational products. Entering the contest is easy through the HCA website. Learn more
Former LCRA General Manager and groundwater developer, Joe Beal is back in the news with plans to transport water from Bastrop and Lee counties to Travis and Williamson Counties. "It was Beal’s empire-building effort at the river authority in the early 2000s that sent water pipelines shooting into the Hill Country, accelerating suburbia in areas around Dripping Springs" Read more from Statesman.com
"Over the past 15 years, I have studied more than 1,000 springs, closely examining the relationship between springs and the health of the aquifer. I have discovered that springs are of inestimable value to plants and wildlife in landscapes where they occur and have also learned that springs continue to be as important to populations today as they were thousands of years ago. We have also found that in many ways, springs are the canary in the coal mine for groundwater sources." Read more from the National Geographic.
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) today announced its formation as a Texas non-‐profit corporation created to protect these aquifers and their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater property rights associated with owning land over the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers and associated springs. Learn more
The second Bennett Trust educational program will take place April 23-24, 2015 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center, Kerrville. This first-of-its-kind conference, “Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau,” will bring the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries, and legacy-leavers together as educators. Details
While it was once widely assumed that heavy brush like cedar was keeping rainwater from recharging our streams and groundwater systems, science seems to indicate that it's not quite that simple. When done with care and an eye toward restoration, brush control can be beneficial to ecosystem health. Just be realistic about the likelihood that it will fill your stream or stock pond. Read more from Texas Wildlife Magazine.
Ten high school students in Pioneers Youth Leadership were awarded $24,000 in scholarships and cash awards last week at the Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. “Participating in this competition has given me confidence that I can successfully start and run a business in my hometown,” said Steeley Smith. “I was able to learn so much about the positive impacts of rainwater collection through my research,” said Jessica Dong of Knippa. Learn more
A recent article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine profiles some of the biggest problem species invading Texas lakes and waterways, and finds that the damage they are inflicting could cost Texans billions of dollars - and millions of gallons of water - each year. "It's a war, and you are involved." Read more from TPW Magazine.
Learn the basics of birding at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. “Birding is good for you physically, mentally and spiritually. You get outside, you use your brain, and it’s about something bigger than you,” says Patsy Inglet of San Antonio. The veteran birder and certified Master Naturalist teaches Introduction to Birding workshops with her birdster husband Tom Inglet. Their next class at the center is 9 a.m. to noon March 28. Learn more
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center has launched a new website - www.OurTexasWater.org highlighting some of the best and worst projects in the State Water Plan. The website features an interactive map where Texans can find projects in their communities that get either a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for their impact to our rivers, aquifers and natural resources. The website currently gives a thumbs down to the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas, pumping of the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County and a Val Verde County water project which could threaten the Devils River.
“With supplies depleted by drought, the population growing daily and few large water projects in our immediate future, new development must minimize their water demands to protect the lakes, aquifers, and rivers. The counties surrounding the rapidly growing major cities will play a huge role in how we wisely use or diminish our water supplies and in the end determine the State’s economic attractiveness to the nation.” Read more from Tom Hegemier, chair of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.
“Well drillers are locating these gaps in water district jurisdictions and exploiting them for pure profit,” said PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker, who sponsored the resolution. “What is happening in Hays County through the misuse of the rule of capture is tantamount to the theft of water by one community to serve another. … That volume of water could … create a serious economic impact to the Hill Country communities we serve. Economic impact to the Hill Country is economic impact to PEC.” Read more from PEC.
As the story of unregulated groundwater in Hays County unfolds, there are two websites worth paying attention to for current information about citizen involvement. Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) and Save Our Wells.
Many hill country people have been following the Flying J story in Junction; a poster child for ongoing threats to Hill Country rivers due to a lack of rules and oversight. View this video, read final testimony to the City of Junction here.
Come on out to Enchanted Rock this weekend to celebrate the stars! The first Enchanted Rock Star Festival will be February 21 at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. According to Melissa Mial, event spokesperson, the purpose of the inaugural event is to celebrate Enchanted Rock’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park and Wildlife’s Dark Sky Initiative and increase awareness of the benefits of dark sky friendly lighting. Learn more
Op-ed by Ron Walton: “I am not against growth but know the importance of being able to provide the infrastructure to support it. Unfortunately, I see a growing tendency however for growth in the area at all cost which, especially in the Hill Country (my specialty as a Hydro-geologist with background in water wells, septics, and geomorphology) I think does a disservice to all current residents like myself who came here recently.” Read more
Preliminary 2014 data shows the drought gripping the Highland Lakes is now the most severe drought the region has experienced since construction of the lakes began in the 1930s. As a direct result of the prolonged record-dry conditions and record-low inflows from the streams and tributaries feeding the Highland Lakes, the “firm yield,” or inventory of water LCRA can provide reliably every year, has been decreased by about 100,000 acre-feet, to 500,000 acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.) Further reductions in firm yield are possible as the drought continues. Read more
“As built artifacts, the county courthouses of central Texas tell a compelling story of a particular part of the country over a specific period of time. But more than a mere index of a building type, this project seeks to describe how county courthouses and the squares in which they sit relate to the larger communities that surround them.” Read more from TPR. HCA likes to imagine Hill Country courthouses with native landscaping and rainwater harvesting.
“Communities need to reevaluate traditional planning approaches if they are to support increasing population and economic expansion in the coming years – particularly in areas with high growth and stressed water supplies,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Read more from the Alliance for Water Efficiency report, "Water Demand Offset Programs Offer a Path to Sustainable Community Development" here.
This week the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced what many have noticed for the past 20 years- monarch butterfly numbers are on a precipitous decline. Over the past 25 years an estimated 970 million monarchs have disappeared, largely due to loss of habitat. The Texas Hill Country is an important part of the monarch migration route, and USFWS has prioritized the entire I-35 corridor for reestablishing butterfly habitat. That means planting native milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants. Read more about the efforts to bring monarchs back from the Washington Post
A plan to build a concrete batch plant northwest of Dripping Springs has created an uproar among some residents. The plant, which would be operated as Dripping Wet Concrete, has received a preliminary approval for an air quality standard permit, according to documents provided on the TCEQ website. The plant will release a variety of air contaminants, including aggregate, cement and road dust, the document indicates. Read more from Austin Business Journal. Read more about the lack of county oversight of these issues here.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) – considered one of the country’s most innovative transportation organizations – has selected Austin as the site of its 2015 Designing Cities Conference. Read more from Statesman.com.
A lot has been said about brush control recently, from those who tout it as a way to generate new water supplies to those who argue that it may cause more harm than good. When thinking about brush control on your property, there are some important things to consider. As Steve Nelle describes in this helpful article published in TWA's Texas Wildlife Magazine, the first thing a landowner needs to know is WHY they are undertaking brush control. That will inform the location, intensity and methods of treatment.
“I am a rural Texan family farmer. I am a downstream stakeholder/landowner. I have surface water rights that run with my land. These rights and this river I guard intensely, for they are integral to my livelihood and my children’s future. As some say, they are “golden.” "...The system is broken when we cannot protect our most basic elemental resource – clean water." Read Bill Neiman's story as published in TWA's Texas Wildlife Magazine.
On February 3 Hays County Commissioners’ Court took an important first step, in order to, start the process for legislation to address un-regulated commercial pumping of our groundwater resources. Commissioner Conley is encouraging all jurisdictions in Hays County and surrounding areas to pass similar resolutions. “It’s important our state officials hear from our entire community” stated Commissioner Conley. Read the Resolution. Learn about upcoming public meetings and the latest details on this issue at www.saveourwells.com.
A satellite launched by NASA over the weekend could help people around the world tackle the challenges of drought. Researchers at the University of Texas will play a part in that mission that could also help forecast flooding and allow officials to better manage reservoir water supplies. Read more from State Impact.
There are two events this February where you can learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing with friends and family. Join HCA for "Better Lights for Starry Nights" at the Johnson City Library Feb 17 and Enchanted Rock Star Festival Feb 21. Learn more about protecting night skies here.
Take time to watch and consider “Where Am I? The Power of Uniqueness” A TED talk by Ed McMahon, former Scenic America President. Watch now
Two decades ago, the Legislature dedicated a portion of sporting goods sales-tax proceeds - levied on everything from kayaks to pingpong balls - to state parks. Instead of using these funds as advertised, typically, the bulk of the proceeds are diverted into the general revenue fund to pay for schools, prisons and roads. Read more from the Houston Chronicle.
A diverse group of water and energy experts, known as the Texas Roundtable on Water, will release a thorough set of recommendations at a Legislative Briefing on February 16, 2015 at the State Capitol in the Auditorium Room E1.004. The recommendations are designed to ensure the security and sustainability of water resources for the long term economic and social viability of Texas. Read more
With the San Antonio City Council’s Governance Committee’s unanimous approval, renewal for sales tax funding of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP) and Howard Peak Greenway Trails System is expected to go to the voters on the May 9 ballot. Read more from the Rivard Report.
High school students from Hill Country area schools in Pioneers Youth Leadership attended the Pioneers State Leadership Forum in Austin last week. Over two days, the students worked with state agencies and elected officials to address the challenges faced by rural Texas communities regarding water conservation, youth leadership education, and economic development. Learn more
In mid-western Hays County, a groundwater war is escalating. A private water supplier, with goals to pipe and sell close to 6,000 acre feet of water per year has strategically located a well field in an area of the Hill Country where the Trinity Aquifer is unregulated. Read more from the January 26 blog post by Vanessa Puig-Williams. Also read "Groundwater Wars Brewing in Austin’s Suburbs” published in the Texas Tribune.
Want to see what San Antonio will look like in 2020 and 2030? An interactive tool developed by the Urban Institute lets you look at the future size of U.S. cities and their demographics, and even alter assumptions for birth, death and immigration rates to see how low, average or high metrics will affect long-term growth and population makeup. Read more from the Rivard Report.
Nearly three months after approving the $3.4 billion Vista Ridge water purchase and pipeline deal, City Council now appears poised to authorize renewal of two landmark propositions that have funded protection of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and development of the Howard Peak Greenway Trails System for the last 15 years. Learn more from the Rivard Report.
In a recent piece in the Upper Llano River Watershed Protection Plan Newsletter, Dr. Tom Arsuffi explores the value of a healthy, functioning Hill Country ecosystem. In a Texas that is increasingly urbanizing, how do we ensure that our urban centers properly value responsible land management that produces the clean water, resilient wildlife habitat, fresh air and healthy food resources we all need? A related article from High Country News explores the nuances of ecosystem services. It's not as simple as putting a price tag on nature.
Recently elected Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said Wednesday that he plans for the agency to play a more active role as it relates to water. “We’re going to have a water department, and we’re going to be very involved,” Miller said at a luncheon during a Lower Colorado River Authority Planning and Public Policy Committee meeting. “And we’re going to be involved in policy.” Read more from the Austin Monitor.
In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
The Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously January 20 to form a committee that would hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility. Read more from Hays County. Also read related article from Statesman.com: "Critics see conflicts of interest in Hays County water wells".
A decade-old project to build a passenger rail line between the San Antonio and Austin areas picked up steam January 21 with a public meeting of the Lone Star Rail Project. The meeting served as the kickoff to the project’s environmental impact study, which Lone Star Rail Director Joe Black called a “major, major point in the project.” Read more from the Austin Monitor.
On March 4th, hundreds of conservation professionals, land trust volunteers, landowners and agency folks working on land and water conservation issues in Texas will travel to Austin to gather for the 19th annual Texas Land Conservation Conference. Learn more
“Conservation and the importance of preserving our natural habitat are deeply held Texas values,” said Dan Allen Hughes, Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. “Texas voters understand that a strong and thriving system of state parks contributes to a vibrant economy, is an important source of recreation for Texas families and helps protect the natural environment that makes Texas unique.” Read more
A new player has plans to sell up to 5.3 million gallons of water per day to utilities in Hays County, where rapidly growing communities are increasingly desperate to secure water. But the location of Houston-based Electro Purification’s well field, near the intersection of three water districts, has Hays County officials worried that the company will dodge regulatory oversight and hog more than half of the water available from the Trinity Aquifer — an already-depleted aquifer in the northern part of the county. Read more from Statesman.com
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be conducting public meetings in Helotes and Kerrville in early February to obtain comments on the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat Conservation Plan, draft Environmental Impact Statement and an incidental take permit application. Learn more
Hays County commissioners are pretty sure of one thing: Changes will need to be made to FM 150 if it is to accommodate the increased traffic expected to come as a result of Hays County’s rapid growth. However, commissioners are unsure of what exactly those changes will look like. Read more from Community Impact.
"Texans living in the Hill Country have a deep and abiding understanding of the importance of clear, flowing streams, heritage trees, trash-free landscapes, and a calm, quiet environment. We also have a very strong belief in property rights and the responsibilities that accompany those rights." Read more from Leo Tynan as published in the Fredericksburg Times Standard.
The Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City will be hold its Grand Opening Celebration February 14 from 10am -6pm. Included will be a presentation by Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve as well as live music and fun activities. Proceeds from the Grand Opening will benefit the Science Mill's Scholarship Program, which will help defray the transportation costs for field trips, admission, and enrollment in science programs and camps for qualified students. Learn more
The pumping of water from the Edwards Aquifer, the enormous underground cave system beneath Central Texas, has long been a topic of fierce dispute, involving property rights, endangered species, and drinking water needs. Leading policy-makers, scientists, environmentalists and attorneys will convene Tuesday in San Marcos for a day-long free forum titled History of the Edwards Aquifer Dispute: A View from the Trenches. Read more from Statesman.com.
“These wells are being drilled THROUGH and BELOW the Edwards Aquifer into the underlying Trinity Aquifer, the aquifer that supplies the groundwater for western Hays County, including the Wimberley and Dripping Springs areas (not to mention most of Blanco, Kendall, Bandera and many other Texas counties).” Learn more from CARD about this critical Hill Country issue in an area that is not covered by a Groundwater Conservation District. More from CARD.
Residents of Greater San Antonio area reduced the number of vehicle trips taken on area roads by more than 1 million during 2014, according to AACOG, who sponsors NuRide, an online carpool matching, alternative transportation tracking, and reward system. The eliminated vehicle trips cited by AACOG were those of individuals who walked, cycled, took transit, carpooled/vanpooled, worked a compressed schedule, or telecommuted; and self-reported these trips through NuRide.com. More from AACOG.
Peter Mullan, who helped lead the critically acclaimed redevelopment of New York City's High Line park, has been tapped to lead the Waller Creek Conservancy, which is itself looking to dramatically reshape Waller Creek into a lush greenbelt park running through central Austin. Read more from Austin Business Journal.
If you don't know what water catchment area (watershed) your land is in, you can find it on our map viewer. Landowner networks exist in many fragile hill country water catchments. Learn about current news and events of the South Llano River Watershed Alliance here. If you're interested in networking with landowners in your water catchment, send us a note.
TWDB unveils new tools for observing drought data and trends. "We wanted Texans and all those interested in our state's drought resources to not only see the information we use when evaluating drought in Texas, but also understand why and how we use it," explained Robert Mace. This data is easy to access whether you are doing technical research or simply trying to understand “Drought in your backyard.” More from TWDB.
The LCRA's drought update for the Highland Lakes region is full of interesting- and disappointing - facts. Due to the rainfall in the Colorado watershed coming in dispersed events and generating little runoff, 2014 inflows into the Highland Lakes system were the second lowest on record. In fact, 7 of the 10 lowest inflow years on record have happened since 2006. If the combined storage of the Highland Lakes fall to below 600,000 acre feet, the LCRA board would be forced to declare a drought worse than the drought of record. For more information, read the LCRA's drought update page here.
“San Antonio voters have long recognized that our economy and quality of life rest on protecting the water and green spaces that drew people here centuries ago,” Councilmember Nirenberg said. Renewing this highly successful Hill Country conservation program for a fourth five-year term would require voter approval on the May 9 ballot. Learn more from the Rivard Report.
Should, could and would water be considered “a crop” by agricultural interests to market to water short urban neighbors? And, while protecting their own property’s value, their neighbor’s, natural resources possibly dependent upon that water (springs, creeks, etc.) and the community’s future needs? Read more from Mike Mecke, published in Ranch and Rural Living Magazine.
“The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas...” The 1942 Hit Parade song paying tribute to the Lone Star State’s starry skies strikes a sour note today in large cities nestled deep in the heart of Texas, where artificial light pollution has rendered all but the very brightest celestial bodies invisible to stargazers. But there’s a meteoric movement in Texas to hit the dimmer switch on manmade illumination that obscures night skies across much of our state. Read more from the January issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.
Patrick L. Reznik, an attorney with Braun & Gresham, answers a few common questions about the rights of Texas landowners threatened by eminent domain, a process by which private and public entities condemn private lands to build transmission lines, pipelines, rail systems and roads, and to take surface or groundwater. Learn more
Carolyn and Roy Horton are passionate stewards of Sandylands Ranch, a sweeping property that backs up to the Pedernales River in the Hill Country. Texas Land Conservancy (TLC) sat down with Carolyn and Roy to ask them about their stewardship ethic, their love of the land, and their vision for the future of Texas. Read the interview and learn more about TLC including a January 17th hike at Sandylands Ranch.
The Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne plans on starting the new year with a 3-part workshop on Texas's wildlife tax valuation. If you are a landowner with 20 acres or more and are interested in learning more about switching your land from agricultural to wildlife valuation, this is the course for you. More details and registration information available here.
The January/February edition of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine features a profile of Terry Hershey, an important pioneer in the history of conservation. Hershey left a lasting impact on the Hill Country and the rest of Texas by championing the use of conservation easements to permanently protect open spaces. Check out the full story here. Read the entire issue (including a story about protecting our dark night skies) here.
Former President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson once said: “Saving the water and the soil must start where the first raindrop falls.” In Texas, where about 95 percent of the land is privately owned, and 83 percent of that land is rural farms, ranches and forests, it is essential that all Texans understand the interconnection of land and water to ensure the healthy stewardship of both, according to natural resource professionals. Read more from TAMU.
The topic of land stewardship has gained a great deal of public attention during recent years. This is a good trend since it helps focus greater awareness to the importance of how the land is treated, and the people who carry out responsible land care. However, land stewardship to some extent, has become a catchphrase; feel-good words; frequently used but seldom clearly defined. In some ways, land stewardship is becoming an over-used slogan; thus the need to clarify its true meaning and character. Read more from Steve Nelle's article published in the Hill Country Land Trust Newsletter.
The legislative session is gearing up, and increasing groundwater production will be the objective of at least a couple of bills. Groundwater will be an important asset for Texas' future water portfolio, but should maximization be the goal? That's one of the questions Our Desired Future is meant to provoke. Read Sharlene Leurig’s recent op-ed in the Texas Tribune.
“Where have all the monarchs gone?” This is becoming an oft repeated query, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists are asking for citizen help in answering the question. Since monitoring of overwintering monarch butterfly populations 1993, the WWF has documented a significant decline that reached an all-time low in the winter of 2013. Biologists recently launched a project to explore Texas milkweed and determine where it is, how much is out there and are the monarchs using it. Read more.
A TCEQ Public Meeting will be held Monday night, December 15th at 7 pm at Star Hill Ranch to hear concerns about the wastewater treatment plant to service this large, dense proposed development. Community members encourage participation as this development will profoundly change the Hamilton Pool Road neighborhood. View the meeting notice here. You can learn more about this project and other issues affecting the Bee Cave and Hamilton Pool Road community at www.HPRmatters.com.
Water is not traditionally thought of as a crop, but Water As A Crop® and its partners are hoping to change that. This organization promotes the idea that water falling on private, rural land can be effectively conserved and marketed in a manner similar to crops. In exchange for implementing conservation practices, rural landowners receive financial incentives to reimburse their costs. These conservation practices benefit investors and landowners and preserve water for rural and urban communities alike. Read more from Texas Water Resource Institute.
You’ve been hearing about SWIFT for months; TWDB is now ready to implement this revolving loan program for water supply projects. The first round of applications are due February 3rd. Conservation is the least expensive and most efficient strategy of all which is why SWIFT legislation requires that not less than 20 percent of this program (hopefully more) is spent on conservation and reuse. Learn more
Los Angeles is a city that is notorious for its use of water- importing it from hundreds of miles away and delivering stormwater to the Pacific Ocean through the Los Angeles River, which largely has been converted to a concrete ditch. The story that is less often told is how this city of 3.8 million, and cities across the country, have begun implementing conservation practices that have shrunk their water footprint and changed the way we look at stormwater. Read more here.
Despite the fact that Texas counties have very little real control over how unincorporated land is developed, Travis County is giving it its best effort, as Commissioners approved a comprehensive Land Water and Transportation Plan on Tuesday. Read more from Austin Monitor.
Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s. Learn about the Bureau of Economic Geology research the Rabke’s are participating in. Read the full story from Mose Buchele at State Impact.
Comal commissioners are supporting proposed legislation to create the “Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.” “The GCD is necessary because the Trinity, a major source of well water in the Hill Country area west of Interstate 35, already has dropped some 87 feet in the last 15 years” Read more from the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.
Storing and using the rainwater that falls on your roof can improve the quality of your drinking water and free you from the restricted use of water for your landscape in time of drought. The Cow Creek GCD has provided several video examples to show how it's done.
Residents are concerned that a sand quarry would destroy the tranquility of the rural community. Because mines typically operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a quarry would bring noise and heavy truck traffic to the area…and because Pontotoc is emerging as a destination for wine tasting, local vintners fear that noise and dust from a mine would bring an end to a growing ecotourism business that has brought visitors to its tasting rooms. Read more from the San Antonio Express News.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance has published "Watershed Stewardship for the Edwards Aquifer Region, a Low Impact Development Manual." The manual was designed for developers, landscape architects, and all of those who live on, or are planning to build over our fragile aquifer recharge areas. Information about techniques that encourage infiltration of clean stormwater on site, and how plantings and landscaping can be used to mitigate stormwater pollution are outlined. Download the manual for free here.
Groundwater rights have been hotly debated in Texas for as long as there has been the ability to pump it. Unlike surface water, which is owned by the state and held in trust for the public, Texas courts have ruled that groundwater is the surface owner’s vested private property. This vested right can be regulated by Groundwater Conservation Districts. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
This 60 Minutes segment on Groundwater Depletion in California’s Central Valley explores California’s drought and the depletion of it’s Central Valley aquifer due to agricultural over-pumping. With dwindling reservoirs here in Central Texas and ever growing population projections, numerous proposals are under consideration to pump and pipe groundwater to the I-35 Corridor and beyond. What can the Hill Country learn from California’s “groundwater overdraft?”
HCA has been recognized as an "HONORARY MEMBER” in the Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist for exemplary service and commitment to the community and natural resources of the State of Texas. Thank you Dixie Camp and the HCMN for many years of collaboration, we look forward to many more. Read more about the award and learn about the Master Naturalist program here.
The Hill Country Alliance, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and The Nature Conservancy, will host a workshop on the nature and function of stream and riparian zones in the Hill Country. The workshop will feature presentations on riparian plants, basic hydrology, and techniques for ensuring healthy riparian function. The workshop will take place from 8am-4pm on Friday, December 5th. A variety of continuing education credits are available. Details
This amazing natural area is devoted to protecting the habitats of hundreds of species of native flora and fauna, grasslands, wooded hills and canyons, and vital watersheds. Thousands of school children visit and participate in hands-on learning experiences here. Learn more about this resource and how you can help protect it. Friends of Balcones Canyonlands
"The regulatory process, including groundwater districts' permitting process for huge commercial projects like this one, must afford the same due process to landowners who do not wish to sell their groundwater as it provides to private water marketers who derive their water rights from landowners who do choose to sell water." Read more
"Prince Charles has warned that the majority of people have 'lost any real connection with the land' as he outlined his concerns about the future of the countryside. He stressed the benefits to the wider economy of the countryside's 'ecosystem services' - with meadows and other grasslands storing millions of tonnes of carbon, providing homes for pollinating insects, supporting the agricultural economy and areas of beauty attracting visitors to boost local tourism." These issues translate here in the Texas Hill Country, read more from The Guardian.
“Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned.” Take a look at these maps that illustration how serious water shortages are in California, it’s essential to learn this lesson and protect healthy aquifers here in Texas, particularly here in the Hill Country.
"The take-away message from this study," Dr. Crompton says, "should be that the state park system is an important contributor to the Texas economy, particularly in rural areas and that the state’s net investment in parks is returned many times over as visitors travel to enjoy the outdoors and leave their dollars behind." Many of state’s most popular parks are right here in the Texas Hill Country. More from TPWD.
Ranchers and Landowners Association in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District will be hosting a rainwater catchment program November 15th in Bandera. Topics will include the state of Bandera County water, rainwater harvesting systems, and rainwater harvesting impact on appraisals. Details
Do you live in karst? About 25% of the US and the planet’s land surface is karst. Karst areas are the world’s most diverse, fascinating, resource-rich, yet problematic terrains. They contain the largest springs and most productive groundwater supplies on Earth. They provide unique subsurface habitat to rare animals, and their caves preserve fragile prehistoric material for millennia. They are also the landscapes most vulnerable to environmental impacts. Their groundwater is the most easily depleted and polluted. Learn more about the importance of Karsts during a free webinar from SNS, November 18. Details
Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
While much of the plan is dedicated to the preservation of farmland, watersheds and nature preserves, other parts focus on encouraging building more dense, urban-like centers in the county’s unincorporated and undeveloped areas. Read more from Community Impact.
On November 6, 2014, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) adopted a set of rules needed for fully implementing SWIFT in the lone star state. These rules will determine how projects eligible for SWIFT will be prioritized for funding. Now that the rules are official, public water providers are encouraged to submit an abridged application as the first step to receiving funding. More from TWDB.
HCA is interested in learning how you feel about the challenges facing the Texas Hill Country. Please take two minutes to fill out a brief public opinion survey by Monday, November 10th and you may win a two night stay at the Cool River Cabin along the beautiful Llano River. Take the survey here.
CNU Texas Chapter is bringing Chuck back to Texas for a three hour workshop on sensible transportation and infrastructure planning. “We advocate for a model of growth that allows America's places to grow financially strong and resilient,” Strong Towns. Chuck was a huge hit at HCA’s Summit, catch him November 20th in Austin. Learn more
Yes! Rainwater harvesting is a doable, practical, affordable and great tasting way to provide water for homes, gardens and businesses. That was the message heard by the more than 750 people who came out to Dripping Springs to celebrate and learn at HCA's day long edu-fest. Attendees enjoyed 63 booths filled with helpful information and demonstrations, live music, great food and 13 speakers who discussed a range of rainwater harvesting and water conservation related topics. Thanks to all who participated and we'll see you next year! See photos from this year's event here.
Blayne Stansberry has been announced as the unofficial winner of of the Precinct 2 Directorship for The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. She and Director Craig Smith (Precinct 5, uncontested this election) will serve 4 year terms and join current directors Mary Stone (Precinct 1), Blake Dorsett (Precinct 3) and Robert (Bob) Larsen (Precinct 4) on the Board. More from BSEACD.
Balancing Rural and Urban Water Needs: How Local and Regional Planning Activities Ensure Long-Term Supplies. Join State Representative-Elect Andrew Murr as he moderates a discussion with SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott; Hydro-geologist, Region J consultant, John Ashworth and GBRA director/former CCGCD president, Tommy Mathews. Difficult decisions lie ahead as urban areas demand more water, rural areas experience loss of spring flow and our region faces increased challenges brought by population growth and drought. Are Central Texas’ water planning processes on track to balance the needs of its rural and urban users and protect the natural water resources that sustain our ecologic and economic health? Learn more
On October 31 the LCRA formally submitted an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) for the construction of a 138-kV transmission line project in Blanco, Gillespie and Kendall counties. Potentially impacted landowners should receive notice in the mail in the coming days. That information is also posted on the LCRA website. Potentially impacted landowners are encouraged to review the application documents, including the updated map, and participate in the PUC process. Landowners have until December 15 to become formal interveners in the PUC review process. More information and instructions on accessing LCRA TSC’s complete CCN application are available here.
Last week, the San Antonio City Council “unanimously voted in front of a packed chamber to approve a controversial pipeline that would bring in groundwater from 142 miles away. The $3.4 billion project would pipe in 16 billion gallons of water each year from Central Texas' Burleson County.” Read the full story as well as related stories leading up to this vote in the Texas Tribune.
The Community Gardens Program recently announced that the Bamberger Foundation will be funding a new urban garden in San Antonio. The garden will emulate many of the practices set forth by J. David Bamberger at the award winning Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Johnson City. Learn more
Driving through western portions of Austin, maybe you’ve noticed scenic, tree-covered hills spreading across the landscape and wondered when they will become a new shopping area or residential development. While growth is inevitable, it is also important to preserve land for the environmental benefits it provides. Learn more
Water is a hot topic in Texas – and it’s getting hotter. Register for Trib + Water to stay informed. This bi-weekly newsletter is brought to you at no cost by The Meadows Center for the Environment and The Texas Tribune.
“The project is much too important and costly for San Antonio not to have a full and complete understanding about the reliability of the groundwater supply.” Read more from this open-letter by Dr. Curtis Chubb, rancher and groundwater expert, published in the Rivard Report. Citizens have the opportunity to address the San Antonio City Council each Wednesday at 6:00 pm. The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club has created a clearinghouse of articles and reports to keep you informed. SA City Council is likely to vote on the project Thursday, October 30th.
“This historic decision puts us within reach of purchasing the entire tract of land and protecting the habitat Bracken’s bats have used for thousands of years.” Read more from Bat Conservation International. “San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the county, in part because of the vast natural resources of the region. It’s our responsibility to ensure we protect and conserve what makes this region incredibly special.” Councilman Ron Nirenburg, quoted in the Rivard Report.
There's a lot of evidence that millennials don't drive as much — or care as much for cars in general — as previous generations their own age did. They're less likely to get driver's licenses. They tend to take fewer car trips, and when they do, those trips are shorter. They're also more likely than older generations to get around by alternative means: by foot, by bike, or by transit. There's still a lot of dispute, however, over exactly what these trends mean. Read more from the Washington Post.
"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
“We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough. The lives of urban and rural Texans are irreversibly intertwined, so we must all join forces to create and define initiatives and policies that conserve the common good, while protecting the heritage of private landowners.” Read more of David K. Langford's guest blog for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.
For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.
City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.
“I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.
The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details
..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.
“Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat,” Fitzsimons said. Read more about Land Trends.
A community workshop will be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore http://Fix290.org for more information.
HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. Learn more
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune.
at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more
The Highway Beautification Act will be 50 years old next year. As envisioned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, it was supposed to protect the natural landscape from billboards. Ever since its passage, scenic activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. More from NPR.
The San Antonio Water System Board will vote Monday on a $3.40-billion landmark water deal that would pipe in 50,000 acre-feet of water to San Antonio annually as soon as 2019, enough to meet 20% of the growing city’s future water needs. Read more from the Rivard Report.
Monday’s vote by SAWS is step one, San Antonio City Council will ultimately consider and vote on the Vista Ridge Pipeline Project. Who is this water for? Where will it ultimately go? Who will ultimately pay and what are the long-term financial implications? Show up at UTSA Monday night for a balanced panel discussion. Get educated and get involved. Event details
“The 522 page draft contract for this $3.4 billion deal was posted on-line on September 23rd, giving the SAWS Board and the public less than a week to review a deal that will have far reaching implications for our community, including an estimated 16% rate hike for SAWS customers.” Read more from GEAA. As Margaret Day of the Alamo Sierra Club points out “to be sustainable, aquifer drawdown should be no greater than recharge.” Read this opinion piece from the Alamo Sierran Word.
Travis County is seeking public comments by Wednesday, Oct 1st on their Land, Water and Transportation plan. Read the plan, take the survey and/or send your comments via email. Meanwhile, CAMPO is taking comments until Oct 6th on a variety of projects including a study to construct a major tollway across sensitive preserve lands. “Traffic solution costly, harmful to environment” Read “City to oppose proposed tollroad” in the Austin American Statesmen.
The League of Women Voters of Comal Area invites the public to attend “The Trinity Aquifer: A Shared Resource/ A Shared Responsibility,” to be held October 7 in Canyon Lake. “If you drink water in Comal County, you are likely to be drinking Trinity water, or you soon will be. It is up to all of us to learn more about this resource, no matter where in Comal County we live.” Learn more
It's no secret that drought has been a major factor in the declining water levels of our lakes and reservoirs here in Texas. But there is another factor that has has received very little attention - evaporation. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
The stars may seem a little brighter over Kerrville next year. The Kerrville Public Utility Board last week set aside about $734,000 to upgrade 2,000 city street lights to “full cut-off,” high-efficiency LED lamps that won’t shine light upward. Read More from the Kerrville Daily Times.
Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create a lot of meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. Learn more
Even as Cibolo Nature Center staffers celebrate a major milestone with the completed restoration of the historic Herff farmhouse, they're setting ambitious new goals. Read more from SA Express-News.
Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. Were sitting just below normal. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most. “The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us." Read more from State Impact.
Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land. Read more from Livestock Weekly.
As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.
With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. Whats the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Read this excellent article by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.
ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country. View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.
Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.
“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.
to host a free community meeting this Thursday to discuss why water is an increasingly critical issue, and how we can all be part of improving the outlook. Speakers include Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Steve Clouse, Chief Operating Officer of San Antonio Water Systems, Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Peter Newell, Water Resources Engineer at HDR Engineering, and Bech Bruun of the TWDB. Details
The Fix 290 Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations and businesses and 2,800 petition signers, have been advocating for a “parkway" concept to move traffic through Oak Hill and protect the original character and unique natural environment of the area for more than a decade. The City of Austin is now asking for a study of this community driven “parkway” alternative to TxDot’s traditional elevated/frontage road model. Read more from Fix290.
On Saturday, September 6th the Hill Country Alliance hosted a landowner workshop for those landowners potentially impacted by the LCRA's proposed Blumenthal substation and transmission line project. The workshop featured an update from the LCRA on the status of their application to the Public Utility Commission, and a panel discussion of landowner rights during the transmission line routing and construction process. To read a more detailed summary of the event and access speaker presentations, click here.
A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio. Read more from The Texas Tribune.
February 28 in Kerrville - Wildlife Tax Valuation Workshop, part 3 of 3 - Details
March 4-6 in Austin - 2015 Texas Land Conservation Conference hosted by the Texas Land Trust Council - Details
March 25 in San Antonio - Saving Family Lands Seminar - Hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details
March 26-29 in Brackettville - Advanced Women of the Land Workshop by TWA - Details
March 28 in Austin - Native Plant Society Spring Symposium at the Wildflower Center - Details
March 28 in Stonewall – 8th Annual LBJ 100 Bike Tour - Details
April 9 - Six-county wildlife program and tour by Texas Agri-Life Extention - Participating counties: Mason, Menard, McCulloch, Llano, Gillespie & Kimble - Details
April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-life Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details
Runs March 1 - May 31
Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape
Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.
HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool