Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

The Texas Drought Could Be Ending, Thank God. (And Thank Rick Perry?)

Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux/Getty Images

Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to an estimated 30,000 attendees at the non-denominational prayer and fasting event, "The Response," on August 6, 2011 in Houston, Texas.

Texas has come a long way in recovering from the devastating single-year drought of 2011. The latest US Drought Monitor Map out this week shows that more than 11 percent of the state is completely drought-free. And less than 5 percent of the state is in the worst stage of drought. By comparison, a year ago, more than 88 percent of the state was in that “exceptional” drought stage.

Since then, things have drastically improved. And during a conference call this week with the prayer campaign 40 Days to Save America, former pastor and Christian fundamentalist Rick Scarborough credited Texas Governor’s Rick Perry’s call to prayer a year ago for ending the drought. Last August, Perry led a prayer and Bible reading at ‘The Response,’ a prayer meeting of some 30,000 to 40,000 people at the massive Reliant Stadium in Houston. And apparently it worked?

“The press was willing to mock the prayer and fasting,” Scarborough says in the call featuring Perry, which you can listen to here, “but failed to document that — what everyone had thought would take years — to replenish our lakes and streams – almost happened in three months.” Scarborough says farmers have had a record year of hay harvest (actually, they haven’t) and that it all goes back “to the courageous call of a governor of a state to the people to pray and fast.”

However, many lakes and streams in Texas are very, very far from replenished.

Map by Texas Tribune

Texas' reservoirs have a long way to go to recover from drought, as you can see in this latest map of lake levels from the Texas Tribune.

O.H. Ivie, the main reservoir for several West Texas towns, is less than 12 percent full. It’s been falling all year. San Angelo has less than a year of water left. E.V. Spence Reservoir, which used to supply the town of Robert Lee, is still empty. The Highland Lakes, the main reservoirs for Central Texas, are less than half full. And a new report this week by Texas A&M Agrilife Today warns that “South Texas reservoir levels are low and keep dropping.” Amistad and Falcon Lakes, which make up the water supply for farmers and municipalities along the South Texas border, are at a combined 44 percent of capacity.

State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon (a Perry appointee) says that it could take years for Texas’ reservoirs to recover.

“Hydrologic impacts — water supply, reservoirs, stream flow — tend to be most sensitive to longer timescales because, for example, reservoirs hold multiple years-worth of run off,” Nielsen-Gammon said in an interview with StateImpact Texas earlier this year. “And so the fact that the rainfall from the current year hasn’t made up for the deficit built up last year means there’s still hydrologic drought present in Central Texas.”

Last April, at the beginning of the most devastating wildfire season in Texas history, Perry declared a three-day “Prayer for Rain” in response. Months later, the Labor Day Wildfires ignited, destroying over 1,600 homes and taking two lives.

“Thank you for the leadership of our state,” the former pastor Scarborough says in the call.

Governor Perry didn’t get a chance to respond to Scarborough’s salutations, but he did take time earlier in the call to lambast the separation of church and state in remarks that got the governor back in the headlines after leaving the Republican primary in January.

“Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you,” Perry says in the call, “and one of the untruths out there … is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.”

While the drought isn’t over, it’s fair to say it’s headed right in that direction. The latest forecasts are calling for a cool, wet winter that could help Texas’ lakes and streams that still haven’t recovered.

But the issues of water management and conservation brought up by the drought aren’t likely going away anytime soon. And it’s fair to say we’re going to need more than prayers to tackle those issues in the future.


  • Genie


  • Unbelievable.

  • Mouse_2012

    April Fool…oh wait.

  • Me

    Do you suppose that he can part the Gulf of Mexico? And if so, can he fix healthcare too?

    • joy

      No your confusing leaders. Perry calls on the help of the Almighty. Obama parts the seas all by himself

  • Oh–I forgot–Christianity is the one faith in this country that is ok to mock.

    • solidairytynow(moo)

      yup. Don’t like it? Become the minority. please, please become the minority.

    • Kevin Brennan

      I’ve always been an equal opportunity mocker of religion, as are most other nonbelievers. Maybe if there weren’t so many of y’all in this country you wouldn’t receive so much of our attention. Funny how that works, huh?

    • Willy Occam

      All superstition-based religions are deserving of mockery, and non-theists generally do not single out any one of them.
      But the Christian persecution complex is strong, and since you believe
      that you’re at the center of the universe that God created, you like
      to think that we’re only picking on you. It just happens that there are a hell of a lot more Christians in this country than other kinds of theists, which is why it seems like you receive the lion’s share of the scorn. But there’s plenty to go around….

  • Stephen Linton

    Perry prayers were answered; it rained and our prayers were answered; Perry doesn’t reign.

  • PuWeiTa

    Everyday I prey to god to save this nation, and the world, from the religious right.

  • Mydrrin

    He made the prayer in early August 2011, the draught got far worse. This spring it looked dire, this summer started to get some rain. Yeah the previous August prayers worked for you, oh come on, who can believe this. It’s your governor.

    • COMALite J

      Actually, it was late April. Easter weekend. The drought (which was already the worst that Texas had ever seen in human memory) continued to get much worse through the first week of October, and took another several months until well into 2012 to get back to about where it was when the prayer weekend happened. See my comment upthread with Drought Monitor maps.

  • So god is helping Texas and smiting Kansas and Nebraska for insufficient prayer?

  • js

    NPR digs up this story to give its posters a chance to take shots at the religious right. Surely NPR could find a newsworthy story like Sec of HHS breaking the law (Hatch Act) or the democratice congressional candidate in Maryland that has been illegally voting in two states

    • Jay Kay

      js, this is the stuff we want to know. It’s good for a giggle…a little human interest.

      Rick Perry wanted to be our president…Funny how God didn’t answer that prayer.

      By the way, NPR did do a story about Secretary Sebelius http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=161029558
      And a story on Wendy Rosen http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=160915455

      Try checking the facts before posting.

      • joy

        Too bad he wasn’t our president. Maybe the jobs and economic record would look like Texas rather than a depression era mess.God does things in His own way and in His own time.I just hope he doesn’t curse us with another Hollywood incompetent idol again.

    • Well, JS. Sounds like Jay Kay has answered your questions. It’s ok to mock non-believers too. We don’t seem to mind it as much as christians mind it. Seems that the theist position is more tenuous in that regard.

  • steve

    They believe in God but not climate change. Weird.

    • joy

      No its Manmade climate change that they reject.With our usual hubris we think we are more able to control climate problems that began ever since the earth was created.

      • COMALite J

        Revelation 16:8–9 (see also the earlier verses in the same chapter re: oceanic and inland water pollution). Yes, it refers to angels pouring out bowls of God’s wrath, but Revelation is largely symbolic, and earlier it contains a statement that God is going to destroy those who destroy the Earth. The description given there sounds like either global warming, ozone depletion, or both.

        Why do right-wing evangelical Christianists (as opposed to real Christians like Jimmy Carter and the late, great “Mister” Fred Rogers) not believe their own Bibles!?

  • rjohnson

    So if God is responsible when things go good, isn’t he responsible when things go bad, e.g., storms, death, disease and abuse?

  • Leo Olivarez

    It’s a win, win situation, this religion. It rains, god did it, it doesn’t rain and animals and crops die, people suffer, it is what god wanted. The results will always work in your favor when you are able to choose the context. God, no god.

  • Aristotle

    Forty days and forty nights would have been an adequate response

  • I’ll take whatever help we can get in Washington state right now – prayers, rain dances – knock yourselves out.

  • Joy Peyton

    Who’s surprised? After all, what’s the point in believing in a sky god if he can’t even make it rain?

  • KriMaCha

    I’d like to think that we elect governors in America — not religious clerics. I’m astounded at how the religious right wants America to look more and more like the Middle East.

  • vcponsardin

    So who brought the drought on in the first place? God? And prayers from those suffering changed God’s mind? Is that the thinking? That God made a mistake or just changed his mind? Or did the devil create the drought right under God’s nose? And God wasn’t paying attention? Was it some odd test? Did God do it to see if those in Texas were faithful enough? And that with sustained prayer, God was finally convinced? That seems awfully petty, small-minded, childish and pointlessly spiteful. But I guess that’s what God is to most Americans these days…

    • COMALite J

      Not to mention that it didn’t even work. See my comment upthread with the Drought Monitor maps.

  • ephipi

    God! Protect me from your followers.

  • Hummingbird

    I have no issue with a person’s desire to pray. I am, however, deeply
    concerned some of the prevalent attitudes toward water down here in TX,
    and changing those attitudes may take more than prayer; it will take
    policy. Texas has always been a drought susceptible state; at the same
    time, population is increasing exponentially. As said in the article, the issues of water management and conservation are paramount. I
    see people down here trying to keep up with the Joneses, watering their
    lawns constantly, making sure that millions of pools (average 18,000
    gal) stay full and fresh; yet our farmers don’t have enough water to
    irrigate. People throw garbage into the fresh water creeks and bayous. The water supply from the Trinity river for Dallas is perilously strained amongst many other areas. See below:

  • Doug Parrish

    Silly me, I almost thought I awoke in the twenty first century. ” Darkest Africa” and many other countries are still trying to recover from the Christian “missionaries” and other religious zealots who corrupted their innocence and distorted their way of life, teaching them that they were all guilty sinners while, in many cases, enslaving the indigenous population. Sad that it’s still happening in a supposedly educated country where so many believe in a supernatural cocoon and worship such darkness. I hope we will begin to see political aspirants rise above the lunacy instead of trying to woo their constituencies with more preying (spelled correctly).

  • August

    Well I am a Texan the thing I pray for is to get rid of Perry!

  • Why would anyone be surprised at a story like this coming from Texas? Bill Nye “The Science Guy” was booed in Waco for saying that the moon does not emit light, it reflects sunlight. Really.

  • Yes, and Perry said God wanted him to be President too. Hey Rick, God was pulling your leg and you’re too stupid to know it. Take Texas and secede and then you can claim success for the first time in your life.

  • eddie

    I bet this guy wouldn’t pick Barry apart when he says we’re so much better off than we were four years ago. And all the great things that are happening which really aren’t. Oh how the media love to discount those they don’t like.

  • Why did it take god so long?

  • Michael Patrick

    send rick to maui next please………………

  • JR Barton

    Texas Governors like Bush and Perry publicly say things that will get the approving nods of god-fearing Texans, while making back-room deals with energy companies, insurance companies, and the military industrial-complex. Its their money that gets them elected. Pull away the veil, and evaluate the actions of these men – they are anything BUT Christian. I do not think the drought in Texas is over. If god is anything like the god I’ve read in Old Testament stories that destroys those who stray from his will, Texas is doomed.

  • rj

    God is punishing the Texas governor by sending wildfires for conning the public into believing prayer works.

  • COMALite J

    The press was willing to mock the prayer and fasting, but failed to document that — what everyone had thought would take years — to replenish our lakes and streams – almost happened in three months.

    O RLY!? This was the Tuesday (U.S. Drought Monitor is updated weekly) after the three-day prayer event. Even the week before that, which was slightly better, was already the then-worst drought ever seen in Texas (which is what prompted Governor Perry to call for this prayer)!

    So, Mr. Scarborough, you say that it was almost completely alleviated in three months? Let’s just see about that:

    Hmmmm… maybe your God needed another almost three months? Okay:

    You might want to read up in Deuteronomy 18:20–22 about what is to happen to any prophet who dares to speak a falsehod in the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ.

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 »