U.S. Water News Online
AUSTIN, Texas -- Without a one-inch or better rainfall since last November and after temperatures hit the 90s in February, residents of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District have been asked to cut their water usage by 20 percent.
The district's drought alert was sounded after monitoring wells dropped to trigger levels. "This is serious," said district board chairman Patrick Cox. "It isn't a step we take lightly." As drought intensifies along the Edwards Aquifer, which stretches some 176 miles from north to south in central Texas, there is more and more talk of court action to invoke well pumping limits to protect spring-dwelling endangered species.
Last fall, a federal judge declared his intention to impose well pumping limits within the southern portion of the Edwards Aquifer. Without restrictions, said Senior Judge Lucius Bunton III of Midland, Texas, the fountain darter in Comal Springs along with other endangered species might sustain losses or even be wiped out. In November, however, a federal appeals court barred Bunton from acting on a suit that originally was filed by the Sierra Club in 1991.
Comal Springs, located near New Braunfels, Texas, dried up during the record drought of 1956. Lowest spring flows also were recorded in 1984, 1989, and 1990. Late-winter flows in those years were 230 cubic feet per second (cfs), 253 cfs, and 178 cfs, respectively, compared with 264 cfs at the same time this year.
Although single-family residents who own their own wells are exempt from the voluntary reductions in water use, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer board has asked for their compliance as well.
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