Rivers, Aquifer Running High Over Independence Day Weekend

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Pedestrians walk along the Museum Reach across the river from the San Antonio Art Museum.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Pedestrians walk along the Museum Reach where higher than average rains have benefited San Antonio waterways.

At Josh Shandley’s river outfitting business in the Hill Country town of Concan, business renting kayaks, tubes, and other supplies tends to rise and fall like the water in the nearby Frio River.

This Independence Day weekend, after a rainy June that’s left the Frio River and other rivers in the area running strong and clear, business is looking good. 

“It’ll be one for the books this year with the water being up the way it is,” said Shandley, owner of Josh’s Frio River Outfitter.  

Conditions are looking perfect for tubers and paddlers to revel in rivers across the region over the weekend. The San Antonio, Guadalupe, Frio, and Medina, are all running higher than average, according to U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge data. 

The greater San Antonio area also appears in good shape for summer water supplies. Water in the Edwards Aquifer is sitting at its highest sustained summertime levels since 2007, according to data from the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA). Aquifer-fed springs in San Marcos and New Braunfels are also flowing at higher than normal rates, especially for this time of year.

“We’ve had enough rain this year, and enough rain at the right time, that we have pretty good flows at both springs and pretty good water levels everywhere else,” said Paul Bertetti, the EAA’s director of aquifer science. 

San Antonio is a much more well-watered place this July compared to 2018, when the city’s downtown Edwards Aquifer springs ran dry as drought conditions crept across the state. This year, most of Texas, including Bexar County, is drought-free, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

Related: Dry San Pedro Springs a Sign That Drought Has Returned to San Antonio

After a relatively dry May, San Antonio got 5.51 inches of rain in June, compared to the 4.14 inches considered normal, as measured by the weather station at the San Antonio International Airport. Last year, a scant 0.71 inches of rain fell in June. 

Some of that rain this year came with intense thunderstorms that knocked down trees and power lines and caused electricity outages across the city. For a while, it seemed like the storms kept coming and coming. 

Repeatedly, upper-level low pressure systems in the atmosphere parked themselves just west of Texas and sent disturbances moving over the entire state, bringing showers and thunderstorms, said Ethan Williams, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s (NWS) station in New Braunfels.  

“Just about every week, you would have another one of those systems come down,” Williams said. 

The weather over the past spring has also been consistent with San Antonio’s typical El Niño experience, Williams said, which typically means “more wet patterns for us and generally cooler temperatures, just due to cloud cover and rain chances.”

Average temperatures in June were 91.2 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.1 degrees lower than the historical average of 92.3 degrees, according to NWS data. 

From Friday through Monday, NWS forecasters predict ideal weather for being outside – partly cloudy with highs in the mid-90s.

“That type of weather pattern is typical for this time of year,” Williams said. 

Bertetti said the chances for water restrictions through the rest of 2019 are “small or potentially nonexistent,” even if San Antonio gets close to average amounts of rain through the typically hot, dry summer. 

But that can always change if the rain stops falling for too long. 

“Essentially the aquifer is like a leaky bucket,” Bertetti said. “No matter what you do, the water’s being pumped out, and it’s also leaking out in the springs.” 

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