BANDERA COUNTY, Texas — Joe Mooneyham no longer grows any flowers or plants in his backyard. Instead, the Pebble Beach resident in Bandera County is nursing a quiet optimism that it will all come back.
"I haven't watered since September of last year," Mooneyham said. “Everything was just emerald green."
He misses the greenery, the deer and the water.
Medina Lake, which used to send gentle waves lapping at his backyard dock, has receded more than a mile and a quarter away.
"Every day I go on and check the level," Mooneyham said.
Pebble Beach is a community whose name is borne out in the field of small stones that were once covered by several feet of lake water. It's also a community reporting less than a three-month supply of water for its residents.
Neighbors a few miles down the road are having water brought in by the truckload, or face spending tens of thousands of dollars to dig for it.
"The well-service people have been lowering pumps. Some have had to have new wells drilled. It's just a fact of nature," said Bandera County Judge Richard Evans.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality keeps tabs on those places where the water is scarce enough to draw concern.
Pebble Beach is on the list, and so are 33-others which could be out of water within three months.
A dozen municipalities are reporting they could go dry in 45 days or less.
On the map below, priority E means the county has less than 45 days of water supply and those with a P have less than 90 days.
"We have sort of taken water for granted for a long time. And I think that time is over. I think its valuation has gone up. Some communities are in more trouble than others," said St. Mary’s University water law professor Amy Hardberger.
And as San Antonio and other large water-users grow in population — and go shopping for more water resources — they're dealing with smaller communities which are becoming more protective of their water rights.
Experts say this is the trend, even should the skies do open up.
"Does it mean we are always going to be able to continue to water our lawns in the heat of summer? Probably not," added Hardberger.
In the meantime, Pebble Beach is asking the help of Bandera County-- in going after a $350,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture to dig a new, deeper water well.
"They have one well with a limited amount of supply. They need another well. They need storage capacity. So, that's what we're trying to help them effect," said Judge Evans.
"It will rain again. We will flood again. The lake will be full again. We just want it to go ahead and happen,” laughed Evans. “It needs to be here pretty quick."
The Bandera County Judge talks to me on a courthouse lawn ...that hasn't been watered for several years.
"We live in the Texas Hill Country. It's part of the price you pay for living here," he said.
By the end of May, Bandera County should receive a $350,000 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Bandera County will match with $90,000 in an effort to acquire property, construct one well and erect a 30,000 gallon ground storage tank for Pebble Beach