Texas

Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Why This Week’s Rains Won’t Bust The Drought

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A massive swatch of rain is coming to Texas. But you may not need that umbrella for long.

Soaking rains will hit Central Texas today and tomorrow, washing garbage, dirt and leaves down the drains. Flash flood and heavy rain warnings have been issed for a wide swath of the state, from Houston to Paris. But the drought will remain.

We are several years into a dry cycle and climate forecasters predict that will remain true for at least the next few months — despite today’s potential deluge. It’s going to take much more than a couple days of good rain to bust our current drought, according to weather watchers.

“We are hoping that a lot of this rain will soak into the ground and help with the aquifers. Hopefully some of it will actually run off into the rivers and reservoirs.” says Patrick McDonald, National Weather Service spokesperson.

But…

“This will not be a drought buster,” he says.

“It will definitely help out. When we look at a drought we are looking at the last four or five years” of dry weather, McDonald adds.

Currently, about 97 percent of the state remains in some stage of drought and Central Texas’ two main reservoirs, Travis and Buchanan, sit at about 41 percent full. Forecasters predict one or more inches of rain could fall in Central Texas through the next couple days, with some isolated areas receiving up to five inches. ”Normal rainfall is not going to fix the situation we are in with low lake levels,” Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Water Operations Manager Ryan Rowney says.

2011 was the driest year on record, and 2012 could be the warmest ever in Texas, according to state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

More than Central Texans’ needs are at stake. As rains fall across the state, the Lower Colorado River Authority convenes today to decide if coastal rice farmers will be afforded a substantial portion of Central Texas’ dwindling reservoir supply for irrigation. If the LCRA votes to raise the trigger point at which they decide to withhold water from the rice farmers, it could be the second time in history that has happened. The first time was last year.

“Hopefully it can continue to rain. I hope the prognosticators are in error, and I hope we can continue this trend of getting some good showers all the way into the springtime,” McDonald says.

David Barer is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas.

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