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John Jacobs, Mayor of Robert Lee, says drought is "like a cancer."

Life By the Drop: A Special Report on Drought, Water and the Future of Texas

Background

Life By the Drop is a special reporting series by StateImpact Texas, KUT News and Texas Monthly that takes a close look at the state of water and drought in Texas, looking both to the past and the future for answers on how the state can manage a growing population amid a shrinking water supply.

Life By the Drop includes reports from NPR’s John Burnett, Texas state photographer Wyman Meinzer, and audio and online reports from StateImpact Texas and KUT News.

You can listen to (and download) a one-hour documentary on the drought below, hosted by Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein and produced by KUT News and StateImpact Texas:

Latest Posts

Coming Thursday: A Discussion on Drought and Water Issues in Texas

Life By the Drop

Thursday night at the University of Texas at Austin you can attend a special event from our ‘Life By the Drop’ series, Solutions for the Looming Water Crisis in Texas. Texas Monthly senior editor Nate Blakeslee will moderate a panel of experts and officials discussing what Texas can do to ensure it has enough water [...]

Life By the Drop: Where Drought Meets the Sea, A Q&A With Leslie Hartman

Leslie Hartman is the Matagorda Bay Ecosystem Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Drought looks different along the Texas coast.  When you hear the cries of seagulls and the roll of the surf you might be forgiven for thinking that nothing is wrong at all. But as last year’s drought pushed through the summer, the Colorado River brought less and less fresh water into the Gulf of Mexico and [...]

Life By the Drop: A Tale of Drought Told in the Flow of the Colorado

The Colorado River winds it's way near the town of Robert Lee. The town's reservoir dried up last year and water is now pumped in by pipeline.

Running from headwaters near New Mexico, the Colorado cuts southeast through Texas, feeding cities, farms, power plants and ecosystems before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the longest river to start and end all within the state of Texas. In good years, its water is enough to sustain communities at every point as it cuts its [...]

Life By the Drop: Eyes of the Drought

Wyman Meinzer, the state photographer of Texas, is used to finding beauty across the Lone Star State. But during the great drought, Meinzer was faced with the question of how to document devastation and destruction. In an interview with Jake Silverstein, editor of Texas Monthly, Meinzer talks about his work putting a lens to the drought. [...]

Life By the Drop: Between Hell and Texas

With stock tanks at historic lows, cattle, such as this steer on the Patterson Ranch, in Knox County, are driven by desperation to wade into the quagmire that surrounds each remaining water source, where they become stuck.

Last year, Wyman Meinzer got an unsettling feeling. Meinzer was raised on a ranch in West Texas and has weathered many dry spells, including the drought of record, when he was just a boy. But last spring, he started to notice unusual patterns. High winds for days on end. Temperatures much hotter than normal. Waterholes [...]

Life By the Drop: When the Sky Ran Dry

Eugene "Boob" Kelton, 80, is an Upton County rancher and the brother of Elmer Kelton. “Fifteen dollars was the price for a ton of hay, and [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] was paying half of it,” Kelton says. “But whenever the government went to pay more, the producers just raised the price of the feed. So we didn’t realize any more help from the government, but the farmers that were growing the feed, they realized a little more profit. That’s kind of the way things go.”

While the drought we’re only now making real progress out of is still fresh in every Texan’s mind, there’s a whole generation in the state that can remember a time that was arguably more trying. The drought of record in the 1950s lasted for seven years. Imagine seven 2009s or 2011s back to back and [...]

Life By the Drop: Where Do We Go From Here?

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We’ve been looking at drought and water issues in Texas here as part of our new series, Life By the Drop, a collaboration with KUT News and Texas Monthly. Nate Blakeslee, a senior editor at the magazine, looks at some of the solutions on the table in his new piece, ‘Drawing Staws.’ In it, he [...]

Life By the Drop: The Writing on the Wall

This report features contributions from Matt Largey and Emily Donahue of KUT News and Jake Silverstein of Texas Monthly. While last year was the worst in Texas’ recorded history, it was only the latest in a long string of dry spells that stretches back through Texas history, to a time before it was even Texas. Drought [...]

Life By the Drop: High and Dry on the Highland Lakes

Life By the Drop

Earlier this year, walking along the dry river and lake beds of the Highland Lakes, you’d likely find yourself stepping on gravel, fish bones and fresh-water clam shells. After the lakes sat around sixty percent drained, water wells in the area also began to fail. That happened most noticeably in Spicewood Beach, where the Lower [...]

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