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Wildfires burn west of San Antonio, aquifer dips toward stage 4 water restrictions

Nethery Road Fire southwest of Junction in Kimble County.jpeg
Texas Forest Service
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Nethery Road Fire, southwest of Junction, in Kimble County

The Nethery Road fire in Kimble County, southwest of Junction, is now 50% contained after burning 3,500 acres this week.

The Texas Forest Service reports fire lines have been completed on the north, south, and east sides of the blaze and firefighters are battling it on the remaining open west side.

At one point this week the smoke in the air was so bad a temporary flight restriction was put into place. A 400-acre wildfire in Gillespie County is now completely doused.

The National Weather Service reports sea breezes and a stationary boundary over the I-35 corridor could trigger some very scattered showers late Friday afternoon and early Friday night, much like the ones that fell across the western half of Bexar County on Thursday. Some spots in west and northwest Bexar County received more than an inch of rain on Thursday. A few locations in Frio and Medina counties on Thursday received 2 inches of rain.

Otherwise, a record-breaking, weeks-long heat wave continues to grip South Texas as a subtropical ridge only budges from time to time. Temperatures in the hundreds will continue into next week. Only a slight reprieve just below the century mark is expected on Saturday.

Yellow lawns and higher water and air conditioning bills have been the hallmarks so far this summer for South Texas and the Hill Country.

The southern half of Bexar County is now all listed under the worst category of drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor — exceptional. The rest of the county is only ranked one notch above the worst — extreme.

One of the region's main sources of water continues to drop about half-a-foot a day. The water level in the Edwards Aquifer on Thursday afternoon sat at 634 feet. If its 10-day average dips to 630 feet, Stage 4 restrictions would be triggered for permitted water pumpers in Atascosa, Bexar, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Hays and Medina Counties. Under Stage 4, water pumping must be reduced by 44%.

San Antonio residents remain under Stage 2 restrictions because the San Antonio Water System has been using other water sources while following the Edwards Aquifer Authority's requirement to reduce pumping at the same time.

Under Stage 2, San Antonio residents can only use automatic sprinklers once a week based on street address. Under Stage 3 restrictions, like those in place in New Braunfels and Castroville, residents can only use automatic sprinklers on their lawns once every other week.

At San Antonio International Airport this week the city officially fell behind average rainfall for the year by more than 1 foot.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian