Aquifer remains on a roller coaster ride

Ups and downs compare to 1998


SAN ANTONIO – It is no surprise that as the weather goes, so too does the aquifer. The J-17 well has taken a bump of almost 20 feet since rains arrived in October. The level of the aquifer may best be described as a roller coaster ride.

The Edwards Aquifer began the year at a low not seen since the 1950s. It proceeded to take a huge jump to over 670 feet by June, thanks to plentiful rains, and then cratered again by September. Now, it has risen again after flooding rains.

"It’s fairly unusual to get that sort of roller coaster effect,” said Jim Winterle, the director of modeling and data management at the Edwards Aquifer Authority.

Winterle is in charge of crunching the numbers and said there were some comparisons to be made.

"The closest I can think of was back in 1998, where we started out with a wet spring, followed by a very high water demand and hot summer,” Winterle said.

That was followed by historic floods, causing 1998 to have one of the biggest swings in aquifer levels since records have been kept. The Edwards Aquifer rose close to 50 feet before the year ended. In 1998, water restriction had yet to be developed, which may have contributed to more extremes. The events all transpired during a strong El Nino in 1998, a phenomenon that has returned in 2015.

For now, rains have kept the resilient aquifer, which is measuring near 660 feet at the J-17 well, rising.

"If we keep rising like we are, we may be out of restrictions completely by Monday or Tuesday of next week," Winterle said.

It should be noted that while the Edwards Aquifer Authority may lift Stage 1 restrictions next week, all of San Antonio Water System’s customers remain under Stage 2 restrictions.

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