County remains in 'severe drought' status
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) General Manager Dave Mauk has announced that Bandera County remains under the severe drought designation. He made the announcement at the district's regular quarterly meeting held Thursday, July 10.
Recent rains have removed the exceptional drought designation declared by the district in May. For the first time in months the Texas Water Development Board's weekly drought map from the US Drought Monitor shows no part of the county in the deep scarlet shade used to denote the exceptional category, or the red that indicates extreme drought conditions.
Mauk cautioned residents not to be misled by temporarily green pastures. The recent rains have greened everything up, but have had little to no effect on the county's acquifers, he said. The Lower Trinity has had a 26.4 foot average decrease and the Middle Trinity has fallen an average of 45 feet. The City of Bandera well level has dropped six feet since January, Mauk reported.
Because of the continued long-term drought, district scientists are seeing a degradation of water quality in the acquifers as well.
Ever shrinking Medina Lake rose about six feet as a result of the much needed precipitation, but is once again going down. The lake is 4.5 percent full. Across the state, monitored reservoirs are at 66.6 percent full, up from 63.9 percent a year ago.
BCRAGD issued 20 well permits the second quarter, eight wells were logged and one well was plugged.
"Unplugged wells are one of the biggest threats to groundwater quality in Bandera County," Mauk said. Because of that, the district is planning a well plugging educational event in the near future.
The district is recording higher e coli counts across the county at regularly visited testing sites. "That's mostly attributable to higher temperatures and to the geese [in the city park area]," said Mauk, explaining why the warning signs have remained up. In addition to e coli, primary amebic meningoenchephalitis (PAM) remains a concern although the disease is rare. The fatal disease is caused by an ameba that enters the nose and travels to the brain. River swimmers are advised to use nose clips and avoid putting their heads under the water.
During the quarter BCRAGD dealt with six nuisance complaints, including one instance of a blown out septic system that had effluent flowing down the road and into the river. BCRAGD worked with the cooperative property owner who fixed the problem and cleaned up the area. As a result, no notice of violation based on the district's enforcement authority under Chapter 51 of the state's water laws was issued.
BCRAGD continues to map outbreaks of the pernicious water hogging giant cane, arundo donax.
At this time no one has come up with a way to control the rapidly spreading grass, said Mauk. Apparently it takes about six years of spraying to kill it. Cutting the weed only serves to make it angry and cause it to spread. Contact BCRAGD if you have an outbreak on your property so it can be mapped.