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Burnet County remains under critical drought stage

Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District

Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District General Manager Mitchell Sodek (left) recommended maintaining Stage 4 of Burnet County’s drought management plan to the district’s Board of Directors on Feb. 17. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District chose to maintain drought Stage 4, the most severe, in Burnet County during the Board of Directors regular meeting on Feb. 17. While the county has seen slight increases in soil moisture, groundwater is still at historic drought levels.

The district uses the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index to determine Burnet County’s drought stage. District General Manager Mitchell Sodek explained to the board that the county had risen slightly above the PHDI’s highest rank of “extreme” to “severe,” but not enough to warrant relaxing drought contingencies.

“When we compare the Palmer to these water levels, we’ve had some rebound in these Trinity (Aquifer) wells, primarily due to the seasonal aspect of them,” Sodek said. “In winter, they rebound due to reduced pressures, but they just simply haven’t rebounded very much.”

Burnet County groundwater charts
Charts generated by the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District depict struggling well levels on the Trinity Aquifer. Image courtesy of the CTGCD

He presented graphs depicting current water levels of wells on the Trinity, Ellenburger-San Saba, and various granite gravel aquifers across Burnet County. The charts indicated that many wells are still on the cusp of extreme drought conditions set by the PHDI, which considers a ranking of at or below minus-4 as extreme. 

Stage 4 of the district’s drought management plan recommends 30 percent voluntary water use reductions for county residents, no outdoor watering, no filling of pools or reservoirs, no washing of sidewalks, no water for dust control, and leak-proof livestock troughs.

The district also recently imposed mandatory 15 percent water restrictions on permitted users in December 2022 due to alarmingly low groundwater levels.

More rain soon will be more helpful than past rains.

“The soils are wet, so if we do get some springtime rains, we would anticipate seeing increases in water levels and reductions in the drought indexes,” Sodek said.

The board took no action on changing the drought stage, leaving it at Stage 4, where it has been since June 2022.