Sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, the residents of Groesbeck expected to go dry.
Dry, as in, no more water.
Groesbeck, in Limestone County, has notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that unless it gets significant rain by then, Ft Parker Lake, its sole source of water on the Navasota River, will be completely dry.
The town is not alone in its predicament, just the first in line.
Nearer home, Leander and Cedar Park both have told the TCEQ they will run out of water next spring unless the rains come. The Amber Creek Mobile Home Park in Comal County and Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation in Burnet County are on the same list. Llano is nervously eyeing the trickle in its riverbed.
And Blanco County?
"Our water supply in this drought is uncharted territory," said Ron Fiesler, General Manager of the Blanco Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District.
"But for the moment, we're OK."
Fiesler said some wells have had to be replaced in the county this year, but he pointed out they already were shallow or marginal wells, the kind that would be the first to go dry in a drought, and they did.
"But this is not a new phenomenon. We've actually been in a drought since 2006, just with some good rains scattered in among the dry patches."
Fiesler was one of the speakers at an AgriLife Extension Service presentation on coping with drought at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
Blanco's water comes from the Trinity Aquifer, he said, which is quite responsive to rainfall on the surface. If it rains on south Blanco County and the Blanco River is flowing, he can see the water levels rise in the aquifer very quickly. Of course, the opposite also is true.
Johnson City's source aquifer is the Ellenberger, which also has been a reliable source.
"The north end of the county is less-densely populated than the south," Fiesler added, "which means fewer straws are sucking water from the same glass."
Much of the county depends on wells drilled into the Hensel Sandstone, which is exposed at the surface in Gillespie County. He said he likes to see rain west of us, because some of it is absorbed into the Hensel to recharge that aquifer for Blanco County residents in two or three weeks. A few weeks later, wells in Hays County see the effect as the water migrates east.
North, south or central, though, our water levels all are falling, just some faster than others.
Fiesler said nine Central Texas water districts (including ours) have been doing long range thinking, 50 years into the future, to see what we need to do now to make sure there's enough water for county residents in the last half of the century.
"Austin and San Antonio both were growing toward Blanco County until gasoline shot up over $3 a gallon," Fiesler explained, "and the daily commute became more expensive, so the expected population increase hasn't happened -- yet."
The district issues permits setting limits on water use by big consumers, like industry and municipal systems, but it only registers wells for home or ranch use, without restricting the amount they draw.
So far, everyone is allowed to take all the water they want, Fiesler said. Current state law prohibits only wasting groundwater; individual landowners are considered to own the water under their land, even though it is only there temporarily, passing through on its way to fill someone else's well, too.
"Some day the laws may change, if rising demand meets falling water supplies, but not in the immediate future."
How far out does "the immediate future" go?
"Unless we get good rains this winter," he concluded,"next summer will be a really tough one."
The forecast for this winter is for rainfall to remain below normal.