“Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District has continued their very cautious position on remaining at the current Stage 2 Drought Status Declaration.” says Dirk Aaron, General Manager. Aaron stressed, “The District wants those businesses and utilities that have permitted wells to be supportive of this very conservative position. We are asking for a 20% reduction”. The permit holders and exempt well owners of the wells in the Edwards Aquifer are encouraged to remain actively conserving under this “Concern” Stage 2 Declaration Level. Both groundwater and surface water are limited at this time.
Aaron stressed, “The extreme reduction in surface water flows of the Leon River, Lampasas River and Salado Creek is a direct reflection of the serious nature of the drought conditions that Bell County is experiencing and indicates the massive challenge with-in the Brazos Basin. The drought is moving toward the epic conditions of 2011 and is evident by the priority call made by Dow Chemical which will negatively impact those with junior water rights up and down the Brazos River Basin. This will impact local permit holders with irrigation rights from BRA from our local rivers and streams.
The current low flows we are seeing in Salado Creek are a reflection of our dry conditions that also indicate groundwater limitations as well as surface water reductions. This reflection is a mirror of the same low flows experienced in September, 2011. Just last month on June 28th, we registered a 7-day average of 6.13 cubic feet per second (365 acre feet per month) from our USGS Stream flow gage. Today (July 10th), the 7-day average is now 4.37 cubic feet per second (260 acre feet per month). This is so very significant because we lost 106 acre feet of flow in 10 days.
The downtown area of Salado Creek and the Spring Complex is experiencing an additional challenge not dealt with during previous droughts. This new challenge is the rapid construction and replacement of the access road bridges by TXDOT on IH35. Citizens mindful of the issue have questioned Clearwater asking “Who is on watch to make sure the construction does not damage the springs and creek?” In answering that Question, General Manager, Dirk Aaron stated “Clearwater Staff has been in communication with the TXDOT Environmental Coordinator, Michael Rhodes. TXDOT invited the staff and Clearwater UWCD’s consulting hydrologist. We meet on site in May of this year and reviewed their contractor’s best management practices (BMP’s) and protective measures of the aquifer.”
Aaron also stated, “Clearwater was not satisfied with those BMP’s described by TXDOT officials and their inspectors. Clearwater submitted a request for a more robust effort in protecting the aquifer and springflow. TXDOT agreed to our request and assured Clearwater that our added level of protection is attainable. It is our statutory responsibility to demand that TXDOT protects the Edwards (BFZ) by the drilling and pouring of cement for the new bridges. We received notification that they agreed to our guidelines presented May 13, 2013. In layman’s terms our request was to treat each pier similar to a water well construction seal the surface area for protection from contamination and loss of artesian pressure at elevations below the spring complex. The agreement protects the integrity of the Edwards (BFZ) Aquifer macro-porosity features. We know these features are what make the aquifer vulnerable to cement invasion during construction and also vulnerable to unintended introduction of pollutants. These macro-porosity features can and often do serve as conduits during construction and continue such over the lifetime of a bridge pier.”
Clearwater does make frequent site visits to assure the Salado Community that the springs are not being damaged. The BMP approach requires substantial over-site of the pier construction by TXDOT officials and inspectors of their contractors to minimize loss of artesian pressure.
Aaron clarified his thoughts by stating, “We hope that evidence of springflow reduction in early July is not a result of the construction. We are asking TXDOT to find balance of time and money with the more important aspects of “Protecting the Village of Salado’s Water Supply”.” Aaron made one final comment “Clearwater UWCD has also been assured that the contractor draws no water for purposes of construction from Salado Creek proper. They are aware of the environmentally sensitive nature of the Salado Springs Complex and its importance to the economy of Salado. In fact, the whole reason the community is dealing with the Salado Salamander as a potential endangered species was due to TXDOT’s initial environmental assessment in 2007.”
We also have been in direct communication weekly with Salado Water Supply Manager, Ricky Preston. He clearly saw this issue (severe drought) on the horizon and proactively reduced and eliminated use of groundwater for his public water supply wells closest to the springs. This immediately reflected a slight increase at the USGS Gage readings of approximately 4 acre feet of flow, by July 10, 2013.
We have also compared the usage of water by Salado Area Citizens who receive their water from either Salado Water Supply Corporation or the Jarrell Schwertner Water Supply Corporation. The comparisons are for January thru June in 2013 and the same period of time in 2011. Both sets of customers across the area have reduced their usage significantly. Records show a 14% reduction by Salado Water Supply Customers and 23% reduction by Jarrell Schwertner WSC Customers. This represents 106 acre feet less usage of groundwater by Salado WSC and 10 acre feet by Jarrell Schwertner WSC, or 37,798,716 gallons less water in the first 6 months of 2013.
Salado Water Supply Customers and Jarrell Schwertner Water Supply Customers have simply done a tremendous job of conserving. Unfortunately, the Clearwater Drought Management triggers asking for continued Voluntary Reduction of Edwards BFZ Water is addressed to industry, municipal and private well owners who have wells in and around the Village of Salado. It appears that our drought conditions, as predicted, are serious and will continue for the remainder of 2013. (See photos attached)
The three Edwards Monitor Wells (Salado Cemetery Well, TXDOT Rest Stop Well, FM 2843 Patterson Crossing) all reflect some drawdown but not as extreme as we had seen in September 2011. Since January 2013 we have averaged 8 foot of drawdown across these three monitor wells. We do expect accelerated drawdowns in these wells, similar to September of 2011, occurring in the next 60 to 90 days if groundwater use is not reduced.
The CUWCD Board of Directors, in their monthly meeting will review the General Manager’s position on this declaration. Aaron states, “The need for continuing to ask well owners (both permitted and exempt well users) not to utilize this precious resource inappropriately and excessively for landscape purposes is the best way to conserve for a possible repeat of last year’s drought. We realize businesses and homeowners have a significant investment in their landscape, and feel a need to protect that investment”. “Our position,” states Aaron “is to properly protect the Aquifers in accordance with the District’s Management Plan and available groundwater data pursuant with Chapter 36 Texas Water Code. We have a job to do and that is to protect water quantity for the future.”