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The Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District has downgraded the drought stage for Burnet County and reduced mandatory groundwater restrictions for large-scale users in light of improvements to local aquifers.

The district’s Board of Directors on Thursday, May 23, unanimously voted to drop the drought stage from Stage 4 Critical to Stage 3 Severe. Burnet County had been under Stage 4, the most serious, since June 2022. The board also voted to reduce mandatory restrictions on permitted groundwater users from 15 percent to 10 percent. Mandatory restrictions have been in place since December 2022.

Board President Ryan Rowney told that the board made its decision at the recommendation of Groundwater Conservation District General Manager Mitchell Sodek. Rowney explained that local groundwater supplies had improved, according to district findings, and remaining in the highest drought stage with those improvements would not have been reasonable.

“We’re seeing some moderate increase in our groundwater levels,” Rowney told “When you see that ‘extreme’ level for so long, it loses its potency. We do want folks to continue to be aware of the drought, but there have been improvements.”

Stage 3 Severe drought policy recommends that Burnet County groundwater users voluntarily reduce their usage by 20 percent and avoid non-essential watering. This stage also allows for 10 percent mandatory reduced usage for permitted users. The Stage 4 Critical policy recommends 30 percent use reduction and allows for 15 percent mandatory reductions on permitted users.

Burnet County was in an “extreme drought” for most of 2022 and 2023, according to the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index, a system used by the Groundwater Conservation District to help determine the severity of a drought. The county shifted into “severe drought” in November 2023 and remained there through April 2024.

Rowney said he was grateful for recent rain but wary of the coming summer and warned of the potential for a return to harsher restrictions.

“(The rain) is great, it is springtime, but summer is on us and the rain can shut off anytime,” he said.