AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer District hit a critical drought, or stage three, level for the first time in nine years.

The critical drought declaration was made on Thursday after one of the district’s drought triggers, Lovelady Monitory Well, passed below its critical drought trigger Monday.

Only one of the district’s two drought triggers, which are Lovelady Monitor Well and Barton Springs, needs to be reached for a drought declaration to be made. In order to exit a drought stage, however, both triggers must rise above their respective trigger values.

Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 people depend upon water from the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, according to its website. It’s also the only known habitat for the endangered Barton Springs salamander.

The last time the district was in critical drought was October 2013.

Central Texas has been in a drought since the summer. Last week’s Drought Monitor update expanded, worsening our drought in Central Texas for the fifth week in a row. 

The latest update also put the city of Austin in the “extreme” category. There was a worsening of a full class change for a large portion of the Austin metro including parts of Gillespie and Burnet counties.

So far this year, we have received below-average rainfall every month this year except for February and August. May, June and July 2022 were the warmest on record for Austin.

The district said reducing water use is now critical. With continued lack of rainfall and high rates of pumping, water levels could drop to the extent that some wells go dry. The district has already received reports of dry wells.

Flow from Barton Springs could eventually decrease to the point where ecological, recreational and aesthetic uses of Barton Springs would be damaged, according to the district.

The Edwards Aquifer of Central Texas is subdivided into three segments: Northern, Barton Springs and San Antonio. The Edwards Aquifer is composed of the Cretaceous-age Edwards Group (Kainer and Person Formations) and the Georgetown Formation in Central Texas.