Water in Wimberley: Enough for Wimberley and the Texas Hill Country?
It has become increasingly important to protect our region's water quality and quantity through sustainable practices. Jack Hollon explains why and how.
Photo © 2008, VisitWimberley.com

It is really dry in Central Texas, and that affects everything.

May and June, two of our best rainfall months, usually boost a huge supply of fresh green growth, plus hordes of insects and larvae that feed on this lush bounty. Also, deer have their fawns in the May-June season to take advantage of fresh browse and forbs for milk production. But this year is different; fawns soon arriving will likely have meager rations.

Rainfall numbers reported the first five months of 2008 in Austin are about two-thirds of average, qualifying for the Cattleman Association’s drought definition: “Less than 75% of the long-term average.” And 9-month rainfall totals from other places are even starker. San Marcos, Wimberley, and San Antonio are dry. And we would be in much worse shape had not 2007 been close to a record rainfall year.

Although the first eight months of 2007 brought about 50 inches of rain, we are now still coasting on that recharge to spring flows and water levels. So far the drought is hurting agriculture and wildlife more than wells, but our supply is next. Spring and stream flows are way down and water levels will decline rapidly in this hot, dry season unless we have rain, and plenty of it.

So, what do we do? What does the groundwater conservation district recommend to meet this challenge?

We can take our first cues from nature: No waste, and shut down non-essential uses. Tree leaves shrink to offer less area for evaporation loss, and even the cedars are now shedding needles to conserve water. This is the hard part for us humans, who usually go against nature in a drought. We tend to use even more water, often a lot more – mostly on our landscapes, the least essential need.

A few conservation tips to help get through a drought:

1. Do a thorough and thoughtful evaluation and inspection of your water uses. Take notes, pay attention, question old habits, discuss with family. Find and fix any leaks.
2. Do not water outside during the hottest hours, 9 AM to 7 PM, when evaporation loss is huge. Use soaker hose or drip irrigation for the outdoor watering you choose to do.
3. As you reduce water to landscape plants, you will find out which are drought resistant. Some will turn brown, then green up when it rains. Others may be lost. Chalk that up to learning. Carry used dish or wash water to special plants.
4. Use efficient shower heads and appliances. The new types of low-flow toilets work really well, with double flushing available when desired.
5. The biggest saver for many families would be to invest in a front-loading washing machine. These also save energy, especially when combined with an old-fashioned clothes line. And meeting your needs and living well while using less is very satisfying...at no extra cost beyond the initial purchase of the front-loader.

Map of Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District single member districts. Click for more details.

The Hays Trinity Ground Water Conservation District  is now finishing important parts of its Drought Management Plan, the technical features that determine when each drought stage is triggered. Assuming that the Drought Plan will call for a Conservation Stage each summer with markers for Moderate, Severe, Extreme, and Emergency drought stages as needed, our present conditions would probably qualify as Moderate to Severe.

Increased demand for water due to the fast growth and development of the Wimberley area - indeed, throughout most of the Hill Country of Central Texas - makes wise water management an imperative to prevent emergency conditions. And here's the bonus: At the same time we are wisely managing our water supply, we can save money related to household and utility expenses.

Now, that's a win-win situation!

- Article adapted from submission by Jack Hollon, June, 2008 -
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Wimberley Valley Watershed Association