Where We Stand: The Texas Drought

The most recent Texas drought map released by the US drought monitor on Tuesday.

US Drought Monitor

The most recent Texas drought map released by the US drought monitor on Tuesday.

Texas is now in its third year of drought—but is the end in sight, or are conditions getting worse?

Far more of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought now than in July 2012. The Panhandle and the Southeast Texas coast, which are important regions for ranching and agriculture, have been especially hard-hit. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 90 percent of Texas is in drought, and about 35 percent is in extreme drought.

To prevent water shortages, 665 public water systems have implemented mandatory water restrictions, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In many rural areas, farm and pastureland soils are dry, and grasshoppers, which eat crops, have become a problem. (The insects’ populations increase during droughts because the fungus that naturally limits their growth does not grow without moisture—although an extreme drought can prevent grasshopper eggs from hatching.)

The drought is not just a Texas problem. Most of the American West is in drought. The worst-affected regions are the state of New Mexico, and the entire Ogallala Aquifer region, stretching from the Texas Panhandle to Nebraska.

The Ogallala Aquifer, which has a storage capacity approximately equal to that of Lake Huron, provides nearly all the residential, industrial, and agricultural water in the surrounding High Plains region. Drought in the High Plains has led farmers there to pump additional water from the aquifer, accelerating its decline. Depletion of the Ogallala has been especially severe in Texas. In only a year, wells have dropped an average of 1.87 feet in a 16-county area from Amarillo to south of Lubbock.

While the West struggles, the eastern half of the United States has almost entirely pulled out of last summer’s drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data. A series of storms, including Tropical Storm Andrea, brought significant rainfall to the entire Atlantic seaboard, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

By 2100, U.S. temperatures are predicted to increase by 3 to 5 degrees, according to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue rising, national temperatures may increase by as much as 5 to 10 degrees. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change is expected to put greater strain on water resources in the Southwest.

Comments

  • knicknak

    I grew up during the ’50s drought in East Dallas, we could walk across White Rock Lake, now I live in the Austin area and although we can’t walk across Lake LBJ many lakes around us are walkable. Sure will be glad to see the drought over but it doesn’t look like it will end soon.

  • Gyice50

    The problem with the drought is the damage that is being done at the same time to the Aquifers, the aquifers are required to support the many surface impoundments not to mention the areas where the aquifers are now contaminated due to Texas Following its favorite hobby of Fracking. This won’t bounce back and for some of those area’s that are currently in very high to extreme drought cut your losses and leave. For those of us who wanted to find out what’s really more important Oil or Water well unfortunately Texas is going to be the new Poster Child.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education