San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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December 23rd, 2009
A drought for the record books finally over

Onion Creek is flowing again after more than a year of drought that rivaled if did not surpass
the worst on record, in 1956 and 1917. PHOTO by BONZENA BARTON

Editor and Publisher

One of the worst droughts in Hays County’s recorded history is over, quenched by months of above-average rainfall starting in September when the arrival of El Nino climatological conditions brought cooler and wetter weather to the parched region.

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District entered drought stage in June 2008. Over the course of the next year and a half, local ranchers and farmers reported crippling losses, many creeks and swimming holes ran dry, and homeowners faced sharply rationed outdoor water use.

On Dec. 17, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s board of directors voted to declare No-Drought Conditions for its territory, which includes northeast Hays and part of Travis counties.

Both measures the district uses for determining drought condition — flow levels at Barton Springs and the Lovelady monitoring well — rebounded above critical stages with recent rains. However, district officials cautioned that aquifer recharge through caves and fractures has not reached normal levels in Onion Creek, where much of it typically occurs.

“We’re encouraged that we’re officially out of this drought, but we’re far from an aquifer-full status. We know the next drought is coming, we just don’t know when,” said Kirk Holland, the district’s general manager.

The most recent drought rivaled, and in some areas of the state surpassed, the droughts of record in1956 and 1917.

In an August report, using data from the National Weather Service, the National Climatic Data Center and the U.S. Drought Monitor, researchers in the Texas climatologists office classified the 1956 drought as more severe in Hays County. The researchers, however, characterized the 2009 drought as more severe in neighboring Caldwell County even though it did not last as long.

Despite higher-than-average rainfall since September, Hays County as a whole remained 9.5 inches behind its year-to-date historical average at the end of November, according to the Edwards Aquifer Authority.

Total recorded rainfall for the first 11 months of the year amounted to 22.2 inches compared to the 31.7 inch historical average. October was the wettest month in 2009 with about 7.1 inches followed by September with 5.1 inches. The aquifer authority recorded 2.47 inches in November.

As of Monday, the cities of Kyle and San Marcos remained under Stage 1 water restrictions. Kyle spokesperson Jerry Hendrix said the city plans to lift the restrictions effective Jan. 1.

The city of Buda received notice Friday afternoon that the drought had been lifted, and the no-drought status went into effect that day. On Monday the city was in the process of updating its website.

“We’ll go back into the voluntary conservation,” said Buda City Secretary Toni Milam.

That includes watering lawns no more than once every five days, using a handheld hose, drip hoses or soaker hoses, avoiding watering on windy days or between 10 a.m.-7 p.m., mowing on the longest setting, mulching, and washing cars with a bucket.

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