By Megan Wehring
WIMBERLEY – Jacob’s Well has officially ceased flowing for the fourth time in recorded history – this is the result of the ongoing drought and increased levels of groundwater pumping. The last three major recorded instances of a prolonged zero flow were 2009, 2011 and 2013.
This also comes after Hays County officials deemed the area unsafe for swimming earlier this month due to the threat of high bacteria levels, other pollutants and poor visibility.
While swimming is canceled to the public for the foreseeable future, the park is open for hiking and viewing the spring.
“The U.S. Geologic Survey came out to the park several days ago and measured a zero cubic foot per second discharge/flow,” said Katherine Sturdivant, Parks Specialist II (Education and Outreach). “While the spring has neared zero or briefly stopped flowing other times in the past, this is a much more serious issue as there is no end in sight. This is a direct result of the ongoing drought felt across Texas. We typically get a large rain in May during the rainy season, but missed out this year, making things worse. Water flowing from Jacob’s Well comes from the Trinity Aquifer System, which supplies many residences and businesses in the area with drinking water via ground wells.”
Sturdivant added that as the county continues to grow, more pressure is put on the limited groundwater resource which makes for a complex issue.
Solving the problem is challenging.
“What we really need is rain. Lots of rain,” Sturdivant said. “Rainfall in this area moves downwards through the ground into our aquifer systems and supplies the many springs and wells nearby. Without rain, and throughout this drought, the groundwater resources here have been depleted, causing problems for everyone. One thing that residents can do is be mindful of their continued water use. Water is a finite resource that everyone needs to survive and we need to share it carefully.”
The parks department and other Hays County officials can not anticipate when Jacob’s Well will be open again for swimming. This area of Texas gets the most expected rain in May and October but the area missed the big rainfall earlier this year – Sturdivant hopes that October will bring more precipitation to the region.“Without any immediate rainfall, it is likely that visitors will need to wait until next summer for a chance to swim in the spring,” Sturdivant said.
Jacob’s Well Natural Area is an 80-acre natural area containing the Jacob’s Well spring. The park has existed since about 2010 – invasive species and trash have been removed continuously in an effort to improve the land. The spring is a popular tourist destination over the summer as the water remains a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature.