Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Monarch Utilities operates as Texas Water Utilities.

Barton Springs Edward Aquifer Conservation District, or BSEACD, declared Stage 4 Exception Drought on Dec. 14 for the first time in the district’s 36-year history, according to a news release.

BSEACD had been in a Stage 3 Critical Drought since October 2022 when the Lovelady monitor well initially crossed the drought threshold.

How it happened

Shay Hlavaty, the district’s communications and outreach manager, said the transition is a result of Lovelady monitor well reaching a 10-day average of 456.9 feet-mean sea level, or ft-msl, which is below the BSEACD’s 457.1 ft-msl threshold for Stage 4.

"Crossing into Stage IV drought status means significant pumping restrictions and permanent reclassification for certain district permittees," Hlavaty said in an email to Community Impact.

A quick note

Lovelady groundwater levels and Barton Springs flow determine the district’s current drought stage. Only one of those sites need to cross a new drought threshold for a BSEACD declaration, but both must rise above their respective drought threshold values to exit that current drought stage.

The impact

According to a news release, the decline represents "alarmingly low" water levels of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, which serves as a drinking water source for over 60,000 people from South Austin to northern Kyle.

The recently declared drought stage requires 30%-100% pumpage reduction by 149 permittees in the BSEACD, which vary from individual well owners to larger water service providers, such as Buda, Kyle, Hays and Sunset Valley.

“Permittees will experience various degrees of restrictions based on their classification, and those who don’t meet these restrictions are subject to monthly drought penalties. While the district doesn’t enforce restrictions on end users served by water utilities on groundwater wells, such as Creedmoor Maha Water Corp, Goforth Special Utility District, and Texas Water Utilities, it is up to the permittee to ensure reductions are met,” the news release states.

According to a news release, the only way for groundwater resources to recover and end drought condition is through a long period of widespread, significant rainfall over local aquifer recharge zones.

Going forward

Stage 4 declaration restrictions will go into effect Jan. 1. BSEACD encourages members in and outside of the district to actively conserve water resources to “minimize surface and groundwater depletion” and to help aquifer levels recover.