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Edwards Aquifer in Critical Stage Drought

Combination of reduced supply, lower than average rainfall in watersheds, and increased demand has caused both flow at Barton Springs and measured water levels to fall below critical indicators for first time in Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s 19-year history

by Katherine Gregor, Fri., Sept. 22, 2006

You don't miss your water till the well runs dry. For the first time in its 19-year history, the Edwards Aquifer Conservation District this week declared a critical stage drought -- the most severe level -- for the aquifer's Barton Springs segment. A combination of reduced supply, lower than average rainfall in the watersheds that contribute recharge to the aquifer, and increased demand -- thanks to our hottest on-record summer -- has caused both flow at Barton Springs and measured water levels to fall below critical indicators. For the 50,000 households (mostly in southern Travis and northern Hays counties) that use Edwards Aquifer groundwater, the critical stage declaration kicked in a mandatory 30% reduction in use: No more watering the lawn with sprinklers, washing cars, topping off swimming pools, or letting the kiddies cool off with the Slip N' Slide. The larger message for Central Texas? "The drought is proof that we need to start thinking seriously about water conservation," said Colin Clark of Save Our Springs. "On a regional level, we all need to do much more to conserve water. Whether people get their drinking water from [aquifer] groundwater or from the Colorado River, it's a reminder not to be wasteful." Toward that end, Council Member Lee Leffingwell has organized a new city Water Conservation Implementation Task Force, which convenes for the first time on Sept. 29. The impetus for the task force was pressure to build a new $250 million water treatment plant, according to Leffingwell aide Andy Morman. Rather than simply treat more water, why not also make a serious effort to use less? The task force will produce a policy document outlining recommended water conservation strategies, for council consideration and potential adoption as amendments to city code. The stated goal is to reduce peak day usage by 1% a year for 10 years -- which cumulatively could save some 9.125 billion gallons. In addition to trimming the city's tab for water treatment, as Morman points out: "Every gallon we save here is a gallon someone else can use downstream."
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