Shared from the 2/25/2023 San Antonio Express eEdition

Drought hits hard in the Hill Country

Since October, Frio River has been flowing at one-third its usual rate

Photos by William Luther/Staff photographer

The Frio River, seen Feb. 15 at the FM 2690 crossing just south of Concan, is flowing at about 20 cubic feet per second — one-third the normal flow for this time of year. While quantity is a problem, the quality of the water is still excellent.


The Frio River on Feb. 15. According to the USGS’ water data website, the river goes dry before reaching FM 2690.

The Frio River is flowing again — in places.

“The water is clean, and the water is good right now,” said Brett Rimkus, who operates the concessions at Garner State Park in Concan, 90 miles west of San Antonio. “If you want to get in the water, it is great. The river is still kind of low, but it is a lot better than last year.”

A lot better is relative, though.

The Frio was dry from June 19 through Aug. 23, except for a few days around July 4, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Since October, the river has been flowing at about 20 cubic feet per second, one-third its usual flow rate.

The quality of the water is excellent right now. What worries Dick Earnest, president of Concan Water Supply Corp., is the quantity.

The utility spent much of last summer — and more than $250,000 — trucking water to its water towers after most of its wells went dry.

“We’re doing OK right now, but it’s just a matter of hoping we get some rain,” Earnest said.

Flow rates are abnormally low in many Hill Country rivers and streams. The most recent weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map shows that most of the Edwards Plateau is in moderate to severe drought.

That’s what keeps Earnest up at night.

Wells “tend to go down when you put the pressure on them,” he said. “We’ll find out … when spring break starts.”

May is when the big draw on the water system kicks in, according to Earnest. That’s when rental homes fill up with vacationers. “That’ll be the full test,” he said.

As for the outlook for the summer, Earnest had this to say:

“Pray for rain.”

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