Ground Water Emergency Order Update

Date: August 28, 2014
Notice from DNR Office of Conservation, Commissioner James Welsh

On August 19, 2011, the Office of Conservation declared a temporary ground water emergency for two areas of South Caddo Parish due to exceptional drought conditions resulting in higher than normal withdrawal of ground water without sufficient offsetting aquifer recharge. These conditions resulted in ground water levels in the Carrizo-Wilcox and Upland Terrace aquifers dropping to levels which caused several shallower water wells in the two areas to go dry at the end of July 2011.

To prevent further water level decline and reduce stress on the aquifers in these two areas, the agency ordered water conservation measures and ground water use restrictions. Details are provided in the August 2011 Memorandum and Emergency Order No. ENV-2011-GW014.

In response to improved conditions, the agency issued an order amendment to allow for unrestricted use of groundwater, as provided in the First Amendment to Emergency Order No. ENV-2011-GW014, June 30, 2014.

Since issuance of the Emergency Order, Conservation staff has continued to monitor hydrologic data in the region provided to our agency courtesy of the LSU Shreveport Red River Watershed Management Institute and from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) starting in September 2011. Water level data collected from the LSU-Shreveport monitoring wells located in the Areas of Interest indicate that water levels have shown recovery in all wells since June 2012.

Water level data from additional observation wells measured and reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) from November 2011 through May 2014 generally reports near similar conditions as seen with the LSU-Shreveport monitor wells, i.e., water levels gradually receded through August 2012 from their respective high water level marks recorded in April 2012, with a gradual increasing trend through March 2013 before a substantial decline through September 2013 during an extended drought. Results of USGS observation well water levels can be viewed below. Water well levels have continued to show an increasing trend in early 2014 with all wells above the levels originally measured in 2011. Water levels in the past month have declined slightly due to seasonally low rainfall and increased water usage.

The greatest uncertainty for the area is the amount of rainfall, or lack thereof, hence the possibility of the return of drought conditions in the region.

The Louisiana Office of State Climatology rainfall data for the area south of Shreveport indicates monthly rainfall totals that are mostly average from the end of 2013 and start of 2014, although four of the past six months have fallen below respective averages, with July having above average rainfall. 

Since November 2011 to present, measured rainfall in the area is trending nearly consistent with the same monthly average trend shown on the graph at the link provided below.

U. S. Drought Monitor Reports for Louisiana dated August 12, 2014 reported conditions in the areas to be "Normal". The current U.S. Drought Monitor Report for Louisiana may be viewed here.

A cyclical water level rise and fall, or seasonal variation, is normal for aquifer systems such as the Carrizo-Wilcox and Upland Terrace where the volumetric groundwater use is dominated by public supply and domestic purposes. Considering aquifer characteristics and predominate use, water consumption generally trends upward during months with greater hours of daylight and warmer temperatures compared with months with fewer daylight hours and cooler temperatures.

The Emergency Order remains in effect and enforceable, however, based upon readings of water levels and rainfall, the agency suspended restrictions on groundwater use in the areas south of Shreveport effective June 30, 2014, pending continued evaluation. Two restrictions remain in effect which are listed below:   

· All persons in the Areas of Interest shall continue to implement judicious use of ground water withdrawn from Carrizo-Wilcox and Upland Terrace aquifer system water wells by practicing sound water conservation measures.

  · No person shall install a new water well in the Keithville or Ellerbe Road Areas of Interest to produce water from the Carrizo-Wilcox or Upland Terrace aquifers for any purpose without advance written approval of the agency except for replacement wells as defined in Order No. ENV 2011-GW014.

Violations of the above restrictions are enforceable by law and may include the imposition of civil penalties.

The agency issued a news release detailing the agency’s decision to issue the Emergency Order July 30, 2014 Amendment for implementing the actions summarized above.