The Edwards Aquifer Authority just imposed unprecedented Stage Four water restrictions, but the level of the Aquifer keeps going down, and there is no indication of a major storm in our forecast.

  So what do they do next?

  Rick Illgner of the Authority is traveling through the agricultural western counties over the Aquifer, trying to drum up support for a program which would essentially pay farmers not to irrigate their fields.

  "At this point, we're just cutting into people's livelihood," he said.  "We are going to provide financial incentives to see if that will compensate them sufficiently and they'll offload."

  The Authority has a Stage Five, but there are no stages more severe than that.  Illgner says officials are seriously looking at what to do if the Aquifer doesn't recover.

  "This program would provide financial stability in times where there are really severe restrictions, tough times," he said.

  The program will attempt to free up enough water to serve more than 100,000 homes.  Illgner says the Authority also has to be aware of it's responsibility to keep enough water flowing to protect the endangered species liking in Comal and San Marcos Springs.

  The pay-not-to-use program would only kick in if the Aquifer continues to fall.

  The Aquifer today is expected to fall below 627 feet, putting it two feet below where it was when Stage Four restrictions were imposed.

  One year ago the Aquifer was at 633 feet, a function of the continuing slide in the Aquifer level due to the fact that its levels are starting the summertime lower than the year before.  The current drought started in the summer of 2011 and is in it's fourth summer.

  Illgner says the money to pay the farmers not to water would come from fees that large pumpers pay to the Authority for the right to extract water out of the Aquifer.