Drilling underway on new monitoring well at Zilker Park

AUSTIN, Texas - The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is installing two new wells in South Austin to monitor the Edwards Aquifer.

A well at Garrison Park was recently completed, and crews are currently drilling a multiport well at a second location just south of Barton Springs.

"It's going to have 14 distinct zones in it. And we have a special tool that we lower down the well," said Jeff Watson, staff hydrogeologist at BSEACD. "It’s almost like an elevator. We can go to the different zones within the aquifer, and it links up with a little port and can tell us water levels."

They’ll also be measuring dissolved oxygen concentration at different depths within the aquifer.

The Barton Springs and Austin Blind Salamanders rely on dissolved oxygen to survive.

As endangered species, the conservation district and the City of Austin are required to protect them.

They will also install equipment that continuously monitors water levels.

"All we have to do is come back and download the data every few months," said Watson. "So it will be kind of a combination of continuous data and then coming back to visit and collecting water samples and water levels and things like that."

As they drill, they will preserve the aquifer core, sending limestone samples to a core repository at UT Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

"We actually have surprisingly little data about the geology of the aquifer immediately close to Barton Springs. So this is going to be a really unique data set," said Watson. "We’re going to have intact aquifer core that we're collecting from the surface all the way down to the bottom of the well, which hasn't been done before."

BSEACD uses an existing well, the Lovelady Monitor Well, along with Barton Springs discharge, as "triggers" for declaring drought levels.

The conservation district declared Stage IV Exceptional Drought in December. As of Friday, levels show Barton Springs flow in the Stage 1/No Drought level and Lovelady has moved into Stage III/Critical Drought.

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However, it can take several weeks to see the lasting effects of recent rainfall and the district also takes into consideration the 10-day average.

According to a recent update posted by the district, January rain did help recharge the aquifer.

"Notably, area creeks, such as Onion and Barton, saw significant flow for the first time since 2022. Most importantly, this flow occurred over the recharge zone. While the recent rain is already having a positive impact on groundwater levels and spring flow, it may take up to two weeks to observe its full effect. However, the District anticipates remaining in drought conditions due to two consecutive years of below-average rainfall and consistently high summer temperatures."

District staff and board members are expected to evaluate updating the drought stage conditions sometime this month.

The new well is located off of Azie Morton Rd. and Barton Hills Dr. It is expected to be completed in a couple of weeks.