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Farm irrigation reduced, wildfires burn, swimming hole dries up as drought lingers in Texas

Jacob's Well.jpg
Hays County
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Jacob's Well flow has dropped to zero for only the fourth time in its history as drought continues

Some stray sea breeze showers from the Gulf of Mexico could fall over the coastal plains of Texas during late Thursday and Friday. A few rogue showers may stay together long enough to reach San Antonio or other cities along the I-35 corridor.

Forecasters said the best chances, which were not great, would be on Friday. Areas closer to the coast could see as much two inches from the scattered showers. More inland areas would receive much less or none at all.

An extreme drought continues to grip South Texas and the Hill Country, with the worst drought conditions labeled as "exceptional" by the U.S. Drought Monitor and covering southern Bexar and most of Bandera, Medina, and Uvalde counties to the west.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority on Wednesday declared Stage 3 restrictions on permitted water pumpers from the Uvalde Pool of the Edwards Aquifer. Farmers and ranchers in Uvalde County pump from the pool to water livestock and crops. Stage 3 means they must reduce pumping volumes by 20 percent.

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Edwards Aquifer Authority
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Farmers have had to turn to irrigation more and more during drought.

Cotton, corn, vegetables, and cattle are among the products produced by the region using the pool.

The City of Uvalde and its 15,000 residents also rely on the Uvalde Pool for water.

The Uvalde Pool is partially separated from the San Antonio Pool of the aquifer, west of Knippa, by what is called the Knippa Gap, a geological formation. Its water restrictions are triggered by low well readings different from those used to measure the level of the San Antonio Pool.

The San Antonio Pool is under Stage 3 restrictions, which means pumpers like the City of New Braunfels have cut pumping by 35 percent as required by the aquifer authority in order to maintain spring flows for endangered species found in the Comal and San Marcos River springs.

The San Antonio Water System is following Stage 3 pumping restrictions but has not passed on that pain to its customers. The water utility has increased its draw from other water sources to supply its customers. SAWS requires residents to follow Stage 2 restrictions or water their yards only once a week with automatic sprinklers. Under Stage 3 in New Braunfels, residents can only water with automatic sprinklers every other week.

SAWS officials told TPR last week that San Antonians would not likely see increased water restrictions as long as everyone follows the watering rules. One-thousand municipal citations, with fines ranging around $150 have been issued so far this summer.

The ten day average for the aquifer level of the San Antonio Pool sat at 633 feet on Thursday, just three feet above the trigger for Stage 4 restrictions.

The City of San Antonio is in dire need of rain to ease the drought and bring some cooling relief. CPS Energy bills have soared this summer after several days of record heat of 100 degrees or more in June and July.

Yards are turning yellow and brown, but SAWS reports that is normal for this time of year. Experts said yards can survive on the once a week watering plan. Hand watering is allowed anytime.

According to measurements at the San Antonio International Airport, the city has seen only five inches of rain in 2022. The city is behind its annual rainfall average by more than a foot.

Wildfires continue to be a problem in South Texas and the Hill Country due to dry and fire prone conditions.

A wildfire in Seguin has burned around 30 acres and is 70% contained. The Texas A&M Forest Service reports crews fighting the Ameritex Fire used water to cool hot spots. Bulldozers built a containment line around the fire's perimeter. A smaller fire in Boerne near CW Ranch Road & FM 473 has burned only nine acres and is 90% contained. The Honey Creek fire in Uvalde County was declared 100% contained on Wednesday after it burned more than 300 acres.

Hays County officials have closed the popular Jacob's Well swimming hole near Wimberley as its water flow has dropped to zero, making swimming unhealthy. Officials say it's only the fourth time that has happened in the well's history. The surrounding park remains open to the public.

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