‘When, not if it happens’: Factors favor possible Austin megawildfire event

‘When, not if it happens’: Factors favor possible Austin megawildfire event

All it will take for Central Texas to become the next area engulfed by catastrophic wildfires like those seen in Australia is a dry spring and summer, an errant flame and sustained winds. Travis County fire officials say the likelihood of such a megafire event is just a matter of time. A recent report released by CoreLogic, an online property data service, ranked Austin fifth among metropolitan areas in the nation most at risk for wildfires. The only others in…

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As drought persists, Texas ranchers take stock

As drought persists, Texas ranchers take stock

Cattle ranchers in the Texas Hill Country are facing a tough decision after months of drought. “You have to decide where’s your quitting point in terms of buying feed, buying hay and feeding your animals,” says Jamie Osbourn, an agent with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office in Llano County. Llano is one of a handful of counties in the state experiencing severe drought. Gregg County is another, and other East Texas counties also are suffering. Federal data showed most…

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Smart home experiment may change how we conserve water, build and live

Smart home experiment may change how we conserve water, build and live

On the banks of the Llano River, just south of Junction, Texas, amongst the cactus and mesquite trees sits a house that researchers hope will change the face of conservation. Atmospheric scientist Brian Ancell walked along the edge of this mesquite field. He walked past a small wind turbine, past a beige double wide prefabricated home with a solar array and around the corner to a central piece of his experiment: a 10,000 gallon water tank filled with rainwater. “This…

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TCEQ adopts new wastewater rules

TCEQ adopts new wastewater rules

In December, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) adopted new rules for the disposal of treated wastewater effluent by land application. In 2016, Austin petitioned the TCEQ to consider rule changes that would encourage beneficial use of treated wastewater effluent for non-potable purposes, such as irrigation of parks and medians or for toilet flushing within buildings. Beneficial reuse of wastewater effluent, which is often referred to as “reclaimed water,” helps protect water quality while achieving water conservation. It is…

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Water crisis puts Oregon community at a crossroads

Water crisis puts Oregon community at a crossroads

In a desert far from any city, farmers use groundwater to grow lush green hay. The hay fattens livestock all over the world. But there’s a big problem: The water is drying up. Now scientists warn it will take thousands of years for an aquifer in southeastern Oregon to recover, while residents there are already hurting. At Marjorie and John Thelen’s house, the well ran dry in 2015. “We’re not ranchers. We’re not growing hay. We’re just retired in the…

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Austin water use at record low

Austin water use at record low

Water use per person in Austin has fallen to the lowest point since the city began keeping records more than two decades ago. The historic low continues a trend in water usage in the aftermath of drought conditions spanning from 2008 to 2016 that strained Central Texas’ water systems. Austin Water officials tallied 2019 water use, including commercial customers, at 120 gallons per person per day. The water utility says it serves more than 1 million people in the Austin…

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Gov. Abbott issues emergency proclamation for 53 counties suffering from drought

Gov. Abbott issues emergency proclamation for 53 counties suffering from drought

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency proclamation for exceptional drought conditions posing a threat of imminent disaster in 53 counties. Significantly low rainfall and prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire throughout the impacted counties, the declaration states, posing an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy. Under Texas State Code, issuing a state of disaster authorizes the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope…

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Mysterious creatures: Exploring the depths of our karst aquifers

Mysterious creatures: Exploring the depths of our karst aquifers

“These ecosystems harbor some really amazing species,” said Dr. Ben Hutchins at the most recent Texas Water Symposium forum on Wednesday, November 13 at Schreiner University in Kerrville. Referencing the plethora of creatures that reside within Texas’ karst aquifers, Hutchins continued, “A lot of these are crustaceans; you may be familiar with shrimp, but relatively few people have seen a Texas Blind Cave Shrimp. These species occur sometimes at great depths. We have records from close to 2,000 feet under…

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Why frackers are using sewage to collect oil and gas

Why frackers are using sewage to collect oil and gas

America’s oil industry faces a number of challenges, including low oil prices, the rise of electric vehicles and proposals to limit fracking. But one of its biggest problems: The industry is running out of water. The US oil boom is being driven mostly by the growth of fracking — injecting water into shale formations to free up deposits of oil and natural gas that were never economically accessible before. But much of that oil and natural gas is found in…

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Update: Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District passes with almost 75% of the vote

Update: Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District passes with almost 75% of the vote

Update: The Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District passed unofficially with 74.78% of the vote, or 9,715 in favor to 3,276 opposed. Included on the ballot were all seven members of the newly elected board of directors: Juli Hennings, Jim Urie, Tricia Davis, James Dower, Tim Van Ackeren and Rick Scadden, board president. “It’s wonderful that 75% of the voters support confirmation of the SWTCGCD,” Scadden said in a text. “This represents the culmination of many years of hard work…

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