With rainfall being scarce in Blanco County this year, it is probably time for us to be talking about water conservation. Do we have cause to worry? As of right now, the answer is a cautious "yes". Extended weather predictions are expecting at least a few more months of lower than normal rainfall.
Living in a rural area and having to rely on wells, springs, ponds, and surface streams for a water supply tends to make residents more vulnerable to the whims of nature. It is a wise person who maintains some level of awareness that the next drought might be just one rainfall away… especially if that rain was a couple of months ago!
We need to start being careful with our daily water use, particularly since we are approaching the springtime "green-up" and the accompanying need to apply water to help things along. There is nothing wrong with getting some short-term benefits while water levels are still reasonably "normal". However, we can still be aware of the need to eliminate wasteful habits, reduce unnecessary use, and get in the habit of conserving water in our daily lives. This is most important in our outside water uses. Outside irrigation accounts for a huge amount of water demand. If we can get in the habit of watering only once per week, preferably at night, we can be more efficient in our outside watering. Training ourselves in this way will give us a jump-start in dealing with any potentially extended dry period. When the time comes to seriously reduce water usage, we will be less likely to feel deprived.
The Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District monitors the water levels in several Blanco County water wells. For much of late 2010 and early 2011, the water levels in some of these wells held steady, but most wells showed a slow but steady decline. This is clearly related to lower rainfall, meaning less recharge. This is a result of normal pumping demand by well owners when there is little or no replenishment from regular rainfall. While this is often the case, and we have all been through it before and gotten through it, we need to keep in mind that as more and more people move into Blanco County, the demand on groundwater will increase. When pumping exceeds the ability of the aquifer to recharge, we can literally pump ourselves into an aquifer drought situation quicker than ever before.
We all need to pay close attention to the weather patterns in the late spring and summer of 2011. If we receive periodic rainfall in sufficient quantities to provide recharge to our aquifers, then we will have little to worry about. If not, then the "next drought" may have begun. By then, I hope you will already be accustomed to using water wisely. In this way, any future drought will have less impact on you, your family, and your neighbors. For all of us, let me say, "Thanks in advance!"