By Kathi Bliss
Heat, heat and more heat.
Last week’s blast of scorching hot weather set record-high temperatures throughout Central Texas, including in Lockhart, where the mercury topped out at 108 degrees on Saturday, and offered a grim reminder that summer’s “dog days” have only just begun.
Long, dry, sunny summer days will – and in some cases, already have – leached the moisture offered by the damp spring from Caldwell County soil, leaving another grim reminder: the drought that has gripped Central Texas for the last several years has no intention of breaking, any time soon.
Individual health aspects of long, hot summers have been discussed, and will be discussed repeatedly as the summer continues. However, humans and pets are not the only things that suffer when the temperatures crank up.
The land, and perhaps more importantly the rivers, lakes and streams, suffer the impact of the blistering heat, as well.
Already in rural Caldwell County, property owners have noticed cracks, more than two inches in width, in their yards. Leisurely floats down the San Marcos River are even slower, as water levels fall and river flow continues to decrease. And grasses, trees and crops have begun to wither as what little moisture they absorbed over the summer is baked away by the sun.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) reported last week that inflow into the region’s key water-storage systems, Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan, have been reduced to record-low levels over the last several years, and storage in those lakes now is only at 38 percent of full capacity.
Even May’s storms, which brought flooding to several areas in Central Texas, were unable to ease the drought conditions which caused LCRA to cut off irrigation supplies to downstream rice farmers in March. That cutoff, the second in history for LCRA, was a tool used to ensure that residential and industrial customers in LCRA’s service area, continue to have water through the summer.
In April, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) instituted Stage II watering restrictions in March, and the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) instituted Stage II restrictions, which require a 30-percent reduction in groundwater pumping from the San Antonio Pool, which includes areas of Caldwell County, on Saturday.
Although the three main water providers in the region have each assured customers there is plenty of water to supply residential and business customers throughout the summer, each has noted restrictions have been put in place for residential and business customers to ensure that the already dangerously-low supplies do not dip below critical levels.
GBRA’s restrictions, for instance, prohibit the use of outdoor fountains or water features, except those which recycle their water, and prohibit washing vehicles during times outside those set aside for residential and commercial watering.
Customers who receive water from water supply corporations, such as Maxwell WSC, Tri-Community and Creedmoor-Maha, are encouraged to contact their provider to determine whether restrictions apply to them, and in what way.
In the City of Lockhart, customers have remained for more than two years under mandatory watering restrictions, which many customers have forgotten about over time.
Those restrictions limit outdoor watering with the use of sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems to the hours between 7 p.m. – 10 a.m. Residential customers with addresses ending in even numbers are authorized to water only on Thursdays and Sundays. Residential customers with addresses ending in odd numbers may water only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and commercial customers and those living in multi-family units (four-plexes, etc.) may water on Tuesday and Friday evenings.
During these mandatory restrictions, customers may not wash sidewalks, driveways, parking lots or other paved surfaces unless doing so alleviates an immediate health or safety hazard. Watering is allowed outside the mandated period, but only via an attended, handheld hose or bucket.
The City will consider variances, but those are historically heard on a limited basis, and will be granted only after reasons for the variance are received in writing. They will not, however, be considered based solely on the convenience of the customer.
Many of Lockhart’s municipal customers try to find a way around the watering restrictions because they have water wells, which are outside the control of the city’s water system. However, those customers are reminded that watering restrictions are put in place for the safety of the water supply, not for the inconvenience of customers. Water wells, while they are not regulated by the city, do pull water from the same reservoirs and supplies which feed the major suppliers; misuse of water from any of those reservoirs has a widespread impact on customers throughout the region.
To learn more about watering restrictions in your area, contact:
Maxwell Water Supply Corporation – (512) 357-6253
Polonia Water Supply Corporation- (512) 559-2030
Goforth Water Supply Corporation- (512) 376-5695
Martindale Water Supply Corporation – (512) 357-6951
Tri-Community Water Supply Corporation- (512) 488-2573
Aqua Water Supply Corporation – (512) 581-0702