If you talk to enough people in the Texas Hill Country, the subject of water will likely come up pretty quickly. Texas has seen a pretty severe drought in the past few years, and the scarcity of water in the Hill Country is a topic of much discussion. In the Wimberley area where we are located, the Blanco River, Cypress Creek, Blue Hole, and Jacob’s Well have been glaring visual indicators of the impact of the drought. It’s not just the lack of rain though – there are several other contributing factors.
Overpumping of groundwater
One event that had a major impact on the local groundwater supply was the egregious overpumping of water by a local water utility, Aqua Texas. During the past year, they pumped almost twice the amount of water they were permitted to pump, resulting in a fine of nearly half a million dollars. It is also estimated that they lose over 30% of their water to leaks from broken pipes and leaks.
Aqua Texas isn’t the only culprit however. Non-native lawns and swimming pools require large amounts of water. Alternative lawn designs should be considered for this area and swimming pools with covers will help to reduce water consumption.
Rapid Development without restrictions
There has been a lot of development of dense neighborhoods in recent years as well as large scale RV & Tiny Home parks. Some of these RV parks even tout their “resort style pool” as an amenity. Now, I love a good pool as much as the next person during these brutally hot summers, but I just can’t wrap my head around how these projects are allowed to be built when the water supply is steadily decreasing. Hays County and the local Groundwater Conservation District really need to develop a plan for the future if this area is to support the growth it is seeing.
What role can Rainwater Collection play?
While it is not a viable option for everyone due to roof surface area, space for collection tanks, or budget, rainwater collection can help offset some of the impacts mentioned above.
Here are some key reasons why rainwater harvesting should be considered in this area:
- Water Scarcity: The Texas Hill Country frequently experiences drought conditions and water scarcity. The 3 years of La Nina that we recently experienced, and the subsequent drought, has made relying solely on traditional water sources like aquifers and wells unsustainable. Rainwater harvesting provides an additional and alternative water source, reducing the strain on existing water supplies.
- Erratic Rainfall Patterns: The Texas Hill Country often faces unpredictable and sporadic rainfall patterns. By collecting rainwater when it does rain, residents can store water for times of scarcity and reduce their dependence on inconsistent water sources.
- Conservation of Groundwater: The Texas Hill Country heavily relies on aquifers for groundwater. Over-extraction, often from over-development, has depleted these aquifers, leading to dry rivers and potential long-term environmental damage. Rainwater harvesting helps conserve groundwater by providing an alternative source for home potable water needs as well as non-potable water needs for landscaping and irrigation.
- Mitigating Runoff and Erosion: When it rains, water runoff can lead to soil erosion and contribute to flooding. Collecting rainwater reduces the volume of runoff, helping to mitigate erosion around the home and minimizing the impact of heavy rainfall on the landscape.
- Sustainable gardening: Rainwater is free from salts and other minerals, making it suitable for gardening purposes. By using harvested rainwater for irrigation, residents can maintain healthy gardens without relying on treated municipal water, which may have added chemicals.
- Reducing Pressure on Municipal Water Systems: By incorporating rainwater harvesting systems, residents can reduce their reliance on municipal water supplies during peak demand periods. This helps ease the burden on water treatment plants and ensures a more reliable water supply for everyone.
- Savings on Water Costs: Harvesting rainwater is an initial investment that will lead to cost savings on water bills over time. The cost for drilling a well has exponentially increased over the past few years, and the likelihood of drilling into a healthy and productive well has diminished as Texas has experienced extended periods of drought.
Collecting rainwater in the Texas Hill Country is a sustainable and practical approach to address water scarcity, conserve groundwater, and promote environmental resilience in this region with unique climatic challenges.
If you are interested in seeing if rainwater collection will work for you, please contact us!