Drought Easing But SAWS Remains Cautious February 04 2015

As rains fall again following a wet January, all of Bexar County except for a tiny sliver along the Medina County line is completely out of 'drought' conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

  The county has a surplus of rain since January first.

  The weekly Drought Monitor lists Bexar County simply as 'abnormally dry.' 

  "Current conditions are the best they've been since September of 2010, close to the beginning of the current drought," the Monitor says.

  There are four specific levels of drought listed in the Monitor, from 'Moderate,' which is the least serious level, to 'Exceptional' which is the worst.

  39% of Texas remains in some level of drought, that's down from 49% three months ago and 46% one year ago today.

  But at the San Antonio Water System, Anne Hayden says, while Bexar County may be experiencing wet weather today, we have a long ways to go to make up for drought conditions which have pushed the Edwards Aquifer down to the lowest levels in decades.

  "We are seeing the Aquifer come up a bit, and that's a good thing," Hayden said.  "Because it is altogether likely with some of the reports about El Nino that is is going to be a dry spring, and it is good to be prepared for that.' 

  Researchers are mixed on the likelihood of increased rainfall ending the drought this spring.  Chances of an El Nino pattern continuing in the tropical Pacific, which generally leads to wetter weather in Texas, are being downgraded, according to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

  Hayden says SAWS has no plans to change it's Stage Two water conservation level, and is already planning a new round of conservation programs to take effect in the spring, when the growing season begins.

  She says the drought has been with us since 2011, and, even though we have seen a wetter than usual five weeks, that isn't enough to make up for five years of rain shortfalls.

  "We are going into a fifth year of long term, abnormally low rainfall," she said.  "That is not going to change overnight."

  Even the parched Hill Country, which has been in 'Extreme' or 'Exceptional' drought for the past several months, has seen drought conditions lessen over the past few months, although drought conditions remain.

  By far the dryest part of the state remains the area from Wichita Falls northwestward into the Texas Panhandle.  Much of East Texas is not even 'abnormally dry,' in fact, some parts of East Texas actually have a long term surplus of rainfall.

  Hayden says the SAWS area need to keep an eye to the sky, and remember that it took a long time to get into this level of drought.  Even though the J-17 Bexar Index Well is up to 645.1, up 12 feet in the last month, it remains 24 feet below its historic monthly average.

  "This is still a long way from changing that fifth year of drought that we're entering into."