The winter of 2012/13 has come and gone and has left us with a continuing drought. There were very few rain events and they were spaced very far apart. This has led to virtually no recharge occurring for the aquifers in our area. That is unfortunate because the winter period is the best time for water to be able to enter the aquifers through recharge from the dormant surface. This has also set the spring pattern to start with dry soils, further hampered by the usual spring time winds in Texas.
Figure 1: A map showing the rainfall departures from normal from Oct 1, 2012-March 20, 2013.
You can see from the figure above that since the start of the water year (Oct 1) much of Texas has experienced a dry pattern. In fact for Burnet County, every month since October 2012 has been below normal rainfall except for January, which was right at average. Not only has this multi-year drought persisted through the winter, it has actually gotten worse.
The District’s monitor wells have not shown any increases in water levels (except in the Trinity Aquifer due to waning pumping pressures) since October. This has led to low but stable aquifer readings throughout the winter. With the arrival of spring, comes the increase in water usage across our area. With the latest forecasts calling for warmer than normal temperatures, a grim outlook for beneficial rainfall, and a continuation of a multi-year drought, this spring/summer promises to put more strain on area aquifers. This means that conservation will become even more critical. The District will be stepping up its conservation effort and would be glad to share any information and tips with all interested parties. Just a small reduction in pumping in each of the private wells in Burnet County can make a difference.
Goings on in the District
USGS Gain/Loss Survey on the Colorado River
The District has partnered with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to perform a gain/loss study of the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer and the Colorado River. The project focuses on measuring the flow of the river in key locations based on fault lines and geologic contacts to determine if the Ellenburger-San Saba aquifer is gaining/losing water from/to the river. The area of focus is an 8 mile stretch of the Colorado River starting from near the Burnet County line at Colorado Bend State Park and downstream toward Lake Buchanan. This project is to be done in two phases, low flow and high flow. The low flow stage was complete in December 2012. The higher baseflow rate is on standby until ideal conditions present themselves. The goal of the project is to get a better understanding of the water budget cycle of the Ellenburger- San Saba Aquifer for Burnet County.
Satellite Telemetry for Monitor Wells
The District has partnered with the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to provide monitor well data near real-time via satellite telemetry. The District, with the assistance of the TWDB, installed four of the Districts monitor wells in January with special equipment to be able to read the water levels remotely and in near real-time. These wells have been added to the 150+ wells across the State that have similar telemetry units installed. These real-time wells and the other existing monitor wells the District maintains can be viewed at Monitor Well Network.
I had the privilege of assisting and demonstrating the District’s vast monitor well network and newly implemented satellite telemetry program to a group of engineering students from Texas A&M University. The students are working on an engineering project to design a similar monitor well system that can be read remotely for Gonzalez County. They were able to gather first hand knowledge by making a field trip to one of our monitor well sites. I was glad to be able to help them on their project. The district is always willing to further its education outreach throughout the community.
Mitchell Sodek-CTGCD Hydrologist