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Is a Stage 3 Critical Drought on the horizon for Hays County?

By Amira Van Leeuwen

HAYS COUNTY — The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) could declare a Stage 3 Critical Drought if drought conditions continue to worsen, but BSEACD remains optimistic.  

According to the district’s principal hydrogeologist, Brian Smith, BSEACD expects months of low rainfall. 

“We were kind of looking at maybe sometime in September, maybe late September,” Smith said. “[But] we might cross into the next stage of drought.” 

The BSEACD’s board of directors established a Stage 2 Alarm Drought on June 9 after the district’s drought triggers at Lovelady Monitor Well, and Barton Springs passed below their drought triggers in late May and early June. Both drought triggers must stay above the threshold for the county to come out of the drought. 

Meanwhile, BSEACD has around 120-150 permittees (companies and municipalities) following certain curtailments to conserve water. Each permittee has a customizable drought contingency plan it must follow since its use of that water might be different than other users and its water supply. The district receives monthly meter readings and pumping reports from its permittees. The district also monitors permittees to ensure they successfully meet their curtailments. According to the district’s Regulatory Compliance Manager Erin Swanson, permittees have been “pretty successful” in meeting those curtailments. 

“We, on our end, are always watching and alerting them [the permittees]as well. We really want to prevent over-pumping, and be proactive, not reactive,” said David Marino, BSEACD’s communication and outreach manager. 

At Stage 2, the district requires permittees to meet monthly pumpage reduction requirements: 20% for Edwards Historical and Conditional Class A permittees; 50% for Edwards Conditional Class B permittees; 100% for Edwards Conditional Class C and Class D permittees, and 20% for Trinity and Alluvial/Austin Chalk Historical permittees.

Although Hays County residents continue to hope for rain, Smith said the district’s conservation efforts have been working when looking at the numbers. 

“We’re optimistic because the permittees have done well even when we think we’ve gotten close to [cutting back]40% before,” Smith said.

Conservation efforts include rainwater harvesting, collecting and using rainwater for outdoor watering, turning off the water while brushing your teeth instead of letting it run and choosing to plant native or drought tolerant plants. 

BSEACD will meet again on Sept. 15 at 5 p.m.

More conservation tips can be found online at https://bseacd.org/education/water-conservation/conserve.

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