Monday, September 27, 2010

Water Scenes - Compare and Contrast

Readers of this blog might find an interesting contrast to the photos in David’s post from last week in the photos I’ve posted on my own blog. They’re panoramas shot at two of the same places pictured in David’s post, but during 2007 – the previous “wet year.” (Acutally, if memory serves, that winter and spring was wet but things dried out progressively after that.) They all show significant water flow, but nothing compared to David’s photos.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tropical Storm Hermine

Here at Selah, the eastern edge of the Hill Country, tropical storms normally don’t bring us rain. Hermine, however, was a different story and it spent two days—September 7th and 8th—over us dropping ten and one half inches on these limestone hills. Selah is at the very top of a divide, the very highest point. We are downstream from no one. On the west, a big part of the watershed goes to the Blanco River and on the east it’s to the Pedernales … Because we have very good grass cover, the first two or three inches of rain is absorbed into the earth, replenishing our aquifer which keeps our springs, our sole source of water, producing … It takes up to seven hours, in a heavy rainfall, such as provided by Hermine, for runoff to occur at the lower elevations. You can actually see it coming and it rises very fast. Fortunately because the hills are steep, it generally goes down fairly fast. Not with Hermine however as you will see in the following pictures.

Madrone Lake is at a higher elevation so it was the first to fill up – and, as you can see, to overflow bringing tons of debris with it. This debris included a lot of Walnut, Pecan and Oak tree leaves whose tannin has left this normally crystal clear lake a light brown color. We don’t know when this will clear up. The spillway for the lake is 30 feet wide. Water flowed over it two foot deep. Photograph taken by J. David.

About one half mile below Madrone Lake is this dam on the Louis Bromfield Trail. There are stepping stones on top for you to walk across. I cannot recall in my 41 years here seeing this much water at this point on the ranch. Photograph taken by J. David.

Here we are at a still lower point at a low water crossing leading to the Aldo Leopold Trail. Water here was three foot deep. Photograph taken by J. David.

We recently took possession of thirty acres right at the entrance to the ranch. We’ve been using heavy equipment there, pushing cedar, cleaning up, moving earth so this scarifying of the land has left a lot of bare ground – not yet covered with grass. Just look at the amount of soil being carried away. Tons of it. It takes Mother Nature 500 years to replace this. Photograph taken by J. David.

Liquid Gold! – Notice how clear the runoff water is on this low water crossing at the Country Store. Well managed rangeland, land with good grass cover, land that’s not overgrazed, not only allows rainfall to soak into the earth, but also prevents the erosion of soil. Photograph taken by J.David.

RAINFALL - Last year, 2009 was a drought year even though we recorded 24.06 inches. What really affected us the most was 60 days of record 100+ degree days and only 1.11 inches in April, May, June and July. We sold half our cattle, lost over 2,000 trees, creeks dried up, stock tanks went to mud and spring flow fell below 1 gallon per minute. We were within weeks of having to buy drinking water.

Now we are at the end of September and with tropical storm Hermine’s generosity we have recorded 37.0 inches.


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