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
The Vista Ridge water project in San Antonio threatens to follow a dangerous precedent: draining water from one region to another in a way that will only increase exurban sprawl in the Hill Country. If this solution seems familiar it should: It’s the California model that has led to that state having one year of water left. Read HCA's Op-ed published in the Austin American Statesman.
A volley of legislation launched by state Rep. Jason Isaac to stop a controversial groundwater project in Hays County came under harsh scrutiny by his fellow lawmakers on Wednesday. The Republican of Dripping Springs wants to stop Houston-based Electro Purification from pumping up to 5 million gallons of water a day from wells in his district and selling it to Austin's fast-growing Hill Country suburbs. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
After the 2011 wildfires in the Llano Water Catchment, landowners have worked collaboratively to help restore the land. April 18th, the public has a unique opportunity to revisit and learn from these sites. Learn more about this event and discover more useful Llano River information from the South Llano Watershed Alliance. Help spread the word to Llano River landowners to subscribe for regular updates. Read the latest SLWA newsletter.
As Texas Hill Country residents and businesses look for ways to conserve water, the Hill Country Alliance’s Rainwater Revival grants lend a helping hand to schools throughout the 17-county region. The HCA is now taking applications through May 1 from schools that want to implement or enhance rainwater collection and water conservation programs on their campuses. Learn more
The population boom along the Interstate 35 corridor shows San Antonio and Austin could eventually grow together into a mega, metro region, the state demographer said after studying new census data. Hays and Comal counties — both of which hug I-35 and are wedged between San Antonio and Austin — were the fifth and ninth fastest-growing counties in the U.S. from July 2013 to July 2014, according to census estimates released Thursday. Read more from the San Antonio Express-News.
The Children & Nature Network 2015 Conference at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort on April 7-9 has attracted more than 500 leaders from around the world representing the conservation, health, education, technology and built- environment communities. Attendees will explore innovative ways to encourage families, schools, churches, non-profits and businesses to support getting kids active and into nature. More from TPWD.
Protecting watersheds and aquifer recharge areas should be a priority for the House Natural Resources Committee, writes Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Purchasing development rights from private landowners in critical watersheds, he says, is a proven way to protect rural and agricultural land for the benefit of the state's natural resources. Read more from Trib+Water.
Even Texans with the greenest of lawns water them too much, many landscape experts say. And if everyone would turn on the sprinklers only twice a week — still probably more than necessary — the water savings would be significant, according to a report from the Sierra Club released Tuesday. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
This case could lead to the review and potentially overturn the 'rule of capture'. “We hope to bring the common law of Texas into accord with the laws promoting groundwater conservation as passed by the Legislature and as mandated by the Texas Constitution." Read more from TESPA and get involved.
What is being sold to San Antonio as water security for the future could temporarily fuel Hill Country growth and once that supply is needed in San Antonio, then what? “The Hill Country is a beautiful area with limited surface water, limited groundwater and no big city to spread rates across, Puente said. “We would answer the desperate call.” Read the full story in the Austin American Statesman.
“The Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District, which has regulatory authority over the Vista Ridge water, determined that about 50,000 acre-feet of water could be safely permitted. Given that the groundwater district has already granted permits for more than 100,000 acre-feet, it is uncertain how the city can rely on this water for 30 years…San Antonio needs to develop new water resources, but the projects must be affordable and dependable, come rain or shine.” And if this supply is not dependable for San Antonio, how can we consider spurring a Hill Country boom with an unreliable resource? Learn more
“Save Oak Hill is a coalition of neighbors seeking to establish public greenspaces in Oak Hill to honor and preserve the rich history and unique natural features of the place we call home.” With a major TxDot project on the horizon, this Oak Hill community organization hopes protect their sense of place and environmental significance. Learn more and get involved www.saveoakhill.org.
Despite Central Texas growth, less water drawn from Colorado by cities. “More people are moving to Central Texas daily, but the region has used less and less precious river water in each of the last several years.” The more we save, the less we need to import. Read the story in the Austin American Statesman.
As outrage has mounted this year over the Electro Purification well field being built in Hays County, officials from Buda and the planned Anthem subdivision — two customers of the project — have dutifully showed up to town halls and round tables, subjecting themselves to the jeers of their neighbors. But missing from every public meeting has been the most critical player in making the project a reality: the Goforth Special Utility District, a Niederwald-area water provider that has the largest contract with Houston-based Electro Purification’s venture in Hays County. Read full article by the Austin American Statesman.
These days, Austin is trouble year-round. What's ruining Old Waterloo for the people who live there and love it are the people who live there and love it. There's just too many of them—and no plan for handling them all. Read more from Citylab.com.
As Central Texas continues to face its worst drought on record, state legislators are considering several bills this session that could affect water supplies in Austin and throughout the state. Read more from Austin Monitor.
The Hill Country Land Trust (HCLT), a non-profit land conservation group headquartered in Fredericksburg, Texas, recently worked with a landowner to conserve a 201 acre ranch in Blanco County, bringing the total of HCLT conserved acres in the Hill Country to just over 5,900 by the end of 2014. The property, located near the historic community of Sandy north of Johnson City, has been used for grazing and farming since the 1800s. The owners’ intent is to maintain the property as native rangeland for wildlife and livestock. Learn more
The latest developments in the fight to protect our groundwater in Hays County go public at the TESPA Water Meeting on March 21 in Wimberley. "I am excited about this public meeting," said TESPA co-founder and local resident Jim Blackburn. "We on the TESPA team will present the surprising results of our legal research and discuss moving forward to stop the Electro Purification water development plan. I hope everyone who cares about the future health and prosperity of our area will join us." Details
Counties are growing at extremely high rates, in part because of the lack of land use planning ability outside of our cities. This trend has tremendous costs to tax-payers for basic infrastructure needs such as roads, water and schools. “Hays County, just south of Austin, is projected to be the fastest-growing county, by percentage, in all of Texas by 2050” Read more from the Austin Business Journal. Learn more about County Planning authority here.
An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted. Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change. Read more from the New York Times.
With a high-profile groundwater fight raging in his district, state Rep. Jason Isaac is launching a volley of legislation to stop plans to pump huge amounts of water from underneath Hays County. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Representative Isaac issued his own media release yesterday. Read “Rep. Isaac and Sen. Campbell File Water Legislation Aiming to Protect Trinity Aquifer.” here.
Join us for a panel discussion with Thomas Hardy, Ph.D., and Matthew Lewis, the City of Austin’s Assistant Director of Planning and Development Review, on the lessons learned from two great green infrastructure projects located an ocean apart. This next event in the Imagine Austin Speaker Series will take place April 1 at the Dougherty Arts Center here.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) praised the Comal County Commissioners court this week and announced the denial of the Meyers Ranch “Water Quality Improvement District” would have translated to 1,500 homes on 700 acres over the Edwards Recharge Zone. Read more from GEAA.
6th and 7th grade students from Hunt School are learning all about water conservation and rainwater harvesting thanks to a grant from HCA's Rainwater Revival and the generous help of the Hunt Garden Club. Read more from the West Kerr Current.
"With the Feb. 24 approval of Bee Cave City Council and Hays County Commissioners Court, West Travis County Public Utility Agency lobbyists are working to find a sponsor in the Texas Legislature for a bill that would define the specific water and wastewater powers the agency has." Read more from Community Impact.
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
Join HCA at this first of many educational programs at the Hill Country Science Mill: Ecologist G. David Tilman presents, "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth." Dr. Tilman's research focuses on how to provide secure, sufficient and equitable food to all people of all nations while preserving biodiversity and minimizing agricultural impacts on water quality and climate change. March 29th at 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details
Competition for water prompts a quest for new sources. “The rule of capture is coming to the forefront again,” Venessa Puig-Williams explained. “People in Hays County are seeing that, though the rule purports to uphold property rights, it doesn’t really protect them. Large-scale pumping could dry up nearby groundwater sources.” Read more from Circle of Blue.
The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board (TPB) is taking public comment on the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, amendments to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and the FY's 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program. The TPB will hold a public hearing on March 9, and CAMPO will host a series of public meetings before the comment period ends on April 2, 2015. These meetings provide opportunities for the public to comment on the draft 2040 Plan, and on the proposed amendments. Learn more
This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration
The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) recently joined with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the East Foundation to form the Center for Private Land Stewardship. The center will be the hub of education for private landowners and the public, according to a Noble Foundation news release. Learn more from Texas Water Resources Institute here.
The Texas Tribune and Texas State University will be hosting a day long symposium on water, March 10 from 8:00 am to 2:45 pm. Topics include life after Proposition 6, the battle over groundwater, strategies for conservation and the poor quality of water along the Texas-Mexico border. Learn more and register for free.
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
Icy roads and freezing rain couldn’t stop more than 200 people from making their way to the second annual Pollinator PowWow in Austin last weekend. The all-day gathering of pollinator advocates and native plant evangelists gathered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Saturday for a full day of education, enlightenment and wisdom sharing. Read more from Texas Butterfly Ranch here.
"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
This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration
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
March 26-29 in Brackettville - Advanced Women of the Land Workshop by TWA - Details
March 27-28 in Hunt - "Introduction to Holistic Management and Ecosystem Function" - Part one in HMI's Mitigating Drought with Holistic Management Workshop Series - 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
March 29 in Johnson City - "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth," presented by Ecologist, Dr. G. David Tilman - 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details
April 1 in San Antonio - Conversations on Water, "San Antonio's Water Future: Managing Supply and Growth" - Details
April 1 in Floresville - Texas Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop – Upper San Antonio River Watershed - Details
April 1 in Austin - "Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos," part of the Imagine Austin Speaker Series - Details
April 2 in San Antonio - The Audubon Society's Birds and Climate Change Report: 314 Species on the Brink - Details
April 4 in Boerne - 25th Annual Cibolo Nature Center Mostly Native Plant Sale (members only pre-sale April 3 from 5-7pm) - Details
April 4 in San Antonio - Rain Barrel Workshop - Details
April 7-9 in Dallas - Rainwater University 2015 by Texas A&M AgriLife - Who should attend: Texas Flood Plain Managers, Landscape Professionals, Engineers, Architects, Homeowners, Business Owners, Builders, School Districts, City, State and Federal Personnel - Details
April 9 in Fredericksburg- Water Conservation Expo, co-hosted by HCA. Details
April 9 - Six-county wildlife program and tour by Texas Agri-Life Extention - Participating counties: Mason, Menard, McCulloch, Llano, Gillespie & Kimble - Details
April 18 in Junction - Oasis Pipeline Wildfire Recovery Workshop - Details
April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-Land Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details
April 23-24 in Kerrville - The second annual Bennett Land Stewardship: “Keys to Hill Country Living" - Details
April 24-26 in Fredericksburg - 5th Annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival - Details
April 24-27 in Marble Falls - 15th Annual Balcones Songbird Festival - 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