Drought in Texas September 2011

A special e-newsletter about dealing with the Texas drought

Drought perspectives: Nueces River Authority

By Courtney Smith

What remains of the Nueces River, at Laguna Staff at the Nueces River Authority (NRA) are more frequently hearing the statement, “No one now alive has ever seen it this dry,” as the Nueces River Basin, along with most of the state, is in the depths of the drought. Local tanks and many of the Nueces’ tributaries are reduced to potholes or have become completely dry, and in some areas, residents line up to pump water from remaining pools.

The NRA, created in 1935, serves all or part of 22 counties in South Texas, covering more than 17,000 square miles of the Nueces River and its tributaries and adjoining coastal basins. Choke Canyon Reservoir and Lake Corpus Christi, reservoirs in the lower Nueces River Basin that provide water to a large number of cities and industries around Corpus Christi, are currently at a combined capacity of 61 percent. 

“To date, about 4,500 acre-feet of water has flowed into the reservoir system this year—a drastic decline from annual average inflows over the last 10 years of nearly 700,000 acre-feet,” said NRA Executive Director Con Mims. Lack of rainfall has also increased salinity levels in Nueces Bay, which can stress juvenile fish and shellfish that use the bays and estuaries for shelter and potentially adversely affect a multi-million dollar marine industry.

The Nueces River is reduced to a pond, at Montell Currently, the Nueces River is, essentially, a series of potholes upstream of Uvalde and dry from Uvalde down to Lake Corpus Christi, which is about 150 miles, Mims said. In Uvalde, Leona Springs has not flowed for months; Soldier Springs (west of Uvalde) is dry, and the principal monitoring well in Uvalde has reached its lowest level since the 1950s drought.

Mims said that he does not recall a period this intensely hot and dry in the past 65 years. “Trees throughout the area are falling, including one in Uvalde that was once considered the largest live oak tree in the state, and a number of domestic and agricultural water wells tapping minor aquifers in Uvalde County are going dry,” Mims said.

In addition, wildlife is suffering from record-high temperatures and reduced habitat.Sky Lewey, NRA’s resource protection and education director, said, “NRA will work to enhance educational and resource protection programs with new information emerging from this drought.”

For more information about NRA, visit nueces-ra.org.

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