June was a hot one, with a record-setting number of days with 100+ temperatures and the Hill Country region is in extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The recent rain came from a cold front that moved into the area over the weekend, at a time when cold fronts aren’t common, notes LCRA chief meteorologist Bob Rose.
Even with the rainfall, most grass and other plants that were growing have turned brown and significant rains are needed to reduce the wildfire threat. Blanco County is still under a burn ban and aerial fireworks ban. The area is expected to slip back into warm and dry weather this week as the weather that brought the storms clears out.
“Much of Texas has experienced hot and fairly dry conditions during the past two weeks,” states the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. “Since the start of this year, southwestern and southern Texas have reported only 25 to 50 percent of normal rainfall.”
Blanco and the surrounding counties received 6 to 11 inches of rain in March, according to the Statewide Drought Situation Report put out by the State Drought Manager. This was enough to keep soil moisture up for a while but the area fell into an extreme drought during the ensuing months as the rainfall was 7 to 12 inches below the normal.
Two of the wettest months on average, May and June, were very warm and dry. This was the driest January-to-June in the National Weather Service (NWS) records for San Antonio. The lack of rainfall allowed temperatures to reach summer levels earlier than normal, leading to the second warmest June on record. In Austin, it was more of the same, with this being the eleventh driest January-to-June period and the warmest June on record.
The main impacts of the drought have been mostly to agriculture, reports the NWS, but the area is now beginning to see the effects of water usage on reservoirs, lakes, and aquifers that aren’t being refilled by rainfall.
As reported in the Blanco County News last week, the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District declared a Stage One Drought (Mild Drought) conditions for Blanco County groundwater users, in effect until further notice.
LCRA provides tips for saving water inside your home, which is encouraged for users of both wells and water systems.
Bathroom use accounts for about 75 percent of the water used inside the home.
• Check regularly for any leaks in your toilet, faucets and water hose bibs and fix them. Water saved: up to 200 gallons per day.
• Install a low-flow showerhead. Water saved: about 2 gallons per minute.
• Replace older, larger-use toilets with the newer higher efficiency toilets. Water saved: .5 to 5 gallons per flush.
• Take short showers and save the baths for special occasions. Water saved: 2 to 5 gallons per minute.
About 8 percent of in-home water use takes place in the kitchen.
• Don’t rinse dishes before loading dishwasher. Water saved: 20 gallons per load.
• Wash only full loads in the dishwasher. An efficient dishwasher usually uses much less water than washing dishes by hand.
• Install a low-flow faucet aerator, which can cut water use in half. Water saved: 1 to 2 gallons per minute.
• When buying a new dishwasher, consider purchasing a water-saving model. (New models use up to 25 percent less water than older ones.) Water saved: 3 gallons per load.
Elsewhere around the house, remember these tips:
• Wash only full loads in the clothes washer. Washing small loads uses over twice as much water per pound of laundry.
• When buying a new clothes washer, consider purchasing a water-saving model. Water saved: up to 40 gallons per load.
• Insulate hot water pipes where possible to avoid long delays (and wasted water) while waiting for the water to “run hot.” When building a new home, keep the distance short between the hot water heater and showers and other places that hot water is used.