Conservation Matters February 2013

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Drought update: dry conditions continue around Texas

Dried GrassAfter the single driest year in recorded history in 2011, many parts of Texas are still in a drought two years later and the forecast may not be better.

According to the state climatologist, the state may be in the midst of the second-worst drought on record.

Speaking before the Texas House and Senate Natural Resources Committees in February, Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon said that Texas has received only 68 percent of its average rainfall over the past two years, and if the rainfall deficit continues, the current drought could be the worst recorded. Reservoir levels are at their lowest since 1990, he said, and the forecast is for slightly drier conditions than normal in 2013.

Other indications that the drought is still around include water use restrictions on Texans around the state. As of Feb. 13, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 1,020 public water systems had either voluntary (376) or mandatory (644) water use restrictions. Three systems had 45 days or less of water, three had 90 days or less and nine had 180 days or less.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, released for the week ending Feb. 12, showed about 90 percent of the state in some type of drought with 50 percent of Texas in severe drought or worse. Parts of the Panhandle and South Texas were in exceptional drought.

In January Gov. Rick Perry renewed the proclamation declaring that exceptional drought conditions pose a threat of imminent disaster in a number of counties in Texas.

With the occurrence of some rainfall in the winter and spring of 2012, some water officials predicted that by the time the Texas Legislature convened in January 2013, the drought and the problems it brought could be forgotten.

However, some legislators are looking to provide money to fund some of the projects in the state water plan. Sen. Troy Fraser, Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Allan Ritter have introduced bills that, if passed and signed into law, would provide $2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund to finance some of the proposed projects in the state plan. Other legislators have introduced similar bills and suggested other amounts.

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