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txH2O Fall 2011

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Timeline of Droughts in Texas

1822 Stephen F. Austin's first colonists’ initial food crop of corn dies from lack of moisture.
1840 The Republic of Texas adopts the English common law riparian principle that gives landowners the right to reasonable use of water for irrigation or for other purposes.
1854 The introduction of the windmill, used primarily for pumping water for farming and household needs, is crucial to the survival of farmers in Texas’ semiarid High Plains region.
1857 On the plains of West Texas, John Pope begins experimenting with drilling for artesian wells.
1870 Drought
1885–1887 Drought
1889 Texas Legislature enacts bill establishing prior appropriation water law system.
1895 Legislature further refines prior appropriation system.
1900 Heavy rains falling on the Colorado River watershed caused the river to crest 11 feet above the Austin Dam, ultimately destroying it.
1904 Houston RR v. East confirms the English law of the rule of capture, which allows landowners to pump as much groundwater as can be put to beneficial use, regardless of the impact on neighboring wells
1906 A treaty between the United States and Mexico apportions waters of the Rio Grande above Fort Quitman, Texas, to be used for agricultural irrigation.
1908-1912 Drought
1910 In Post City, near Lubbock, cereal magnate C. W. Post spends four years and $50,000 on 23 attempts to use explosives to cause rain. He dies in 1914 believing that he could "shoot up a rain" whenever he wanted to.
1913 Using the rule of capture, the newly established Texas Board of Water Engineers declares nonappropriated waters in the state to be the property of the state and abolishes riparian rights that applied to land acquired from the state after 1895.
1914 The Paddock Viaduct in Fort Worth is completed.
The Texas Board of Water Engineers produces its first set of rules and regulations.
1915 A flood destroys the rebuilt Austin Dam.
1915-1918 Drought
February 1917-January 1918 ranks as the 3rd driest 12-month period
1917 Drought stimulates renewed interest in constructing storage reservoirs for irrigation.
1918 Legislature passes the “Drouth Relief Law,” authorizing counties to loan money for citizens to purchase seed and feed.
1920 Development of high-scale irrigation canals begins on the High Plains.
1923 Water power in Texas produces energy for ginning cotton, grinding corn, sawing lumber, and generating electricity.
1924-1925 Drought
July 1924-June 1925 ranks as the 4th driest 12-month period
1925 The Texas Legislature authorizes the formation of water control and improvement districts.
1926 The Texas Supreme Court, in Motl v. Boyd, determines that riparian rights are attached only to the ordinary flow and underflow of rivers.
1929 Legislature creates the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District, the first river authority and the first "state agency" in the U.S. created specifically for the purpose of developing and managing water resources of an entire river basin.
1931 The Texas Legislature passes a law designed to prevent artesian water wastage
1933–1934 Drought
1933 Lowest Temperature is recorded in Seminole on February 8 at -23°F.
1934 The Dust Bowl stretches from the Panhandle to the Great Plains.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is established, and charged with flood control, providing water supplies, and generating electricity.
LCRA built 6 dams in the next decade.
1935 Dust storms inundate Amarillo from January through March. Seven times, the visibility in Amarillo declines to zero. One complete blackout lasts 11 hours and one storm rages for 3 1/2 days.
1936 A highest temperature record of 120°F is reached in Seymour on August 12.
1938–1940 Drought
1938 LCRA board of directors approves the installation of 50 rain gauges, which initiates the first comprehensive watershed reporting system in Texas.
1939 The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board is established to enforce the state’s soil and water conservation laws.
1940 Having been twice destroyed by floods, the Austin Dam (later renamed the Tom Miller Dam) is reconstructed by LCRA and is owned by the city of Austin.
1944 The United States signs a water treaty with Mexico for allocation of the waters of the Rio Grande below Fort Quitman, Texas.
1945 The legislature authorizes the Texas Department of Health to enforce drinking water standards for public water supply systems.
1946 Of the 194 electric power plants in Texas, 26 are hydroelectric, generating about 15 percent of the state’s electric power.
1948 Of the nearly 30 million acres in Texas agriculture, about 3 million acres are irrigated. Almost 30,000 farms use irrigation systems.
1949 The Texas legislature declares groundwater to be private property. The legislature also provides for the voluntary establishment of underground water conservation districts.
1950–1957 Drought of record begins; 7.7 million people live in Texas.
1950 “Operation Waterlift” arrives in New York City with 3,000 gallons of water from the Highland Lakes to help assist the nation’s largest city’s drought-stricken residents.
1951 First groundwater conservation district (GCD), the High Plains Underground Conservation District No. 1, is created.
Dallas City Council passes a resolution limiting lawn watering.
1952 Lake Dallas holds 11 percent of its capacity.
1953 Falcon Dam completed.
1955 The Trinity River Authority is created by the Texas Legislature.
1956 President Eisenhower declares 244 of the state’s 254 counties as drought disaster counties.
1957 Heavy, general rains begin.
Torrential spring rains cause excessive flooding. From east of the Pecos River to the Sabine River during the end of April, 17 lives are lost, and several hundred homes were destroyed. In May, more than 4,000 are evacuated from lowlands in Fort Worth. Five drown in floods in South Central Texas.
Legislature creates Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), in part, to make certain that future droughts would not have the same devastating effects.
The Water Planning Act of 1957 mandates a process for developing a plan to meet the state's future water needs.
1961–1967 Drought
1961 Water planning process in Texas begins.
The Texas legislature prohibits the establishment of additional water districts except for water control and improvement and underground water conservation districts.
1962 A disastrous cold wave comparable to the cold waves of 1899 and 1951 comes January 9–12. Low temperatures hit -15°F in the Panhandle. Agricultural losses are $50 million.
1963 In the case of Harris County Fresh water Supply District, No. 55 v. Carr, the courts determine that the prohibition of crating certain types of water districts was unconstitutional.
1965 The Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir was completed near Jasper, along with Lake Waco on the Bosque River in McLennan County.
On January 25 the worst dust storm since February 1956 develops, with winds gusting up to 75 mph in Lubbock and dust billowing to 31,000 feet in the area from the Texas-New Mexico border eastward to a line from Tulia to Abilene. Ground visibility is reduced to about 100 yards in many sections. The rain gage at Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, contains 3 inches of fine sand.
1967 Legislature passes Water Rights Adjudication Act; it consolidates all surface water rights into a unified system by transforming previously held Spanish and Mexican grants, riparian water rights and claims into "certificates of adjudication."
1968 TWDB adopts second state water plan; recommends 62 new reservoirs and addresses issues surrounding drainage, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife.
1969 Amistad Dam on the Rio Grande is completed; Toledo Bend Reservoir, in far East Texas is completed, by damming the Sabine River.
1970-1971 Drought
1971 The Texas legislature authorizes the creation of municipal utility districts.
1972 The U.S. Congress passes the Federal Clean Water Act, which requires standards for all point source discharges into receiving water bodies. The law requires a minimum of secondary treatment of all municipal sewage water.
1974 The U.S. Congress enacts the Safe Drinking Water Act.
1975 Construction begins on the Lake Fork Dam and Reservoir to provide industrial and municipal water for the cities of Longview and Dallas.
The problem of excessive pumping of underground water that caused land subsidence, especially in the area between Houston and Galveston, results in the creation of the Houston-Galveston Subsidence District, which became the first state agency with powers to restrict groundwater pumping.
1977 A pair of sandstorms ruin $6 million of Panhandle winter wheat and injure 20 people in El Paso.
1978 Several reservoirs are completed, including Lake Limestone, Lake Granger, Lake Georgetown and the Lake Fork Dam and Reservoir.
1980 The state has 179 major reservoirs.
1981 The Sabine River Authority and the city of Dallas sign a contract to move water to the Dallas Water Utilities Eastside Water Treatment Plant from Lake Fork Reservoir.
1983 The Texas Legislature passes the Wildlife Conservation Act, which gives management authority to the Parks and Wildlife Commission regarding wildlife and fish resources throughout the state.
1984 A revised Texas Water Plan addresses future demand for water by identifying conservation strategies for increasing water resources.
1985 Conservation of water, which is recognized as being more economical than developing new sources of water, becomes a key factor for granting water permits by the Texas legislature.
1987 The U.S. congress passes the Federal Water Quality Act intending to reduce nonpoint source water pollution.
1987 The Wellhead Protection Program, approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is initiated in Texas.
1987 The Edwards Underground Water District (EUWD) develops the state’s first region-wide drought management plan.
1988–1990 Drought
1991 The Texas Clean Rivers Act establishes a state program to reduce nonpoint source water pollution.
1992 The Texas Water Commission declares the Edwards Aquifer to be an underground river; however, the Texas Supreme Court rules this attempt to regulate the Edwards Aquifer unconstitutional.
1992 Only 1 percent of the 420 generating units (30 located out of state) supplying power to Texas are hydroelectric.
1993 The Texas Legislature creates the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) in response to a federal court ruling requiring limits on groundwater pumped from the aquifer to ensure adequate continuous flows from the aquifer’s two main springs—Comal Spring in New Braunfels and San Marcos Springs in San Marcos, two of the most plentiful springs in the United States and home to endangered aquatic species.
1995 In February, the Ozarka Spring Water Company begins pumping 90,000 gallons per day from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Henderson Country. Within days, an adjacent continuously flowing, 100-year-old well goes dry. Eventually, wells in other nearby properties go dry, leading to legal action that the Texas Supreme Court resolves in 1999.
1995-1996 Drought; causes greater economic losses to agriculture than any previously recorded one-year drought.
1997 Texas Legislature passes Senate Bill 1, restructures the process of water planning by creating 16 regional water planning groups and requires that TWDB publish a comprehensive state water plan every five years.
1999–2002 Drought
1999 Drought Preparedness Council established by the 76th Texas Legislature.
1999 The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1911 to create county-based groundwater conservation districts that can regulate groundwater use and collect fees.
Excessive heat throughout August resulted in 16 fatalities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The airport reported 26 consecutive days of 100°F or greater temperatures.
2000 Excessive heat results from a high-pressure ridge July 12–21. Dallas/Fort Worth airport reports a 10-day average of 103.3°F. The heat causes 34 deaths in North and Southeast. Texas.
2001 Texas Legislature passes Senate Bill 2, a follow-up to SB1; enacts significant amendments to regional water planning.
2001 The Rio Grande stops flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
Significant drought-like conditions occur in Texas from early summer through December. After the yearly drought report is filed, it is determined that the total crop damage across the South Plains region is about $420 million.
2002 The TWDB’s State Water Plan obligates state funding for development of water resources and became the first comprehensive statewide water management plan.
2003 In December, SAWS purchases the remaining tangible assets of Living Water Artesian Springs, Ltd., including its well, and an additional 3,125 acre-feet in water rights. Overall, SAWS pays more than $30 million for water sales, leases, land, and equipment.
2005–2006 Drought
2005 The Texas Cooperative Extension estimates statewide drought losses at $4.1 billion, with $1.9 billion in North Texas alone.
2006 TWDB adopts Water for Texas 2007, state water plan.
2007–2009 Drought
2008 Hurricane Ike moves ashore near Galveston September 12. The central pressure was 951.6 millibars, with maximum sustained winds around 110 mph, making Ike a strong Category-2 storm. There were 12 deaths directly related to Ike, at least another 25 fatalities indirectly related to Ike, and damage amounts were near $14 billion.
2010-2011 Drought
October 2010-September 2011 averages 11.18 “, the driest 12-month period recorded in Texas
2011 In August, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service estimates agricultural losses caused by drought to be a record $5.2 billion.
2020 Texas’ population is projected to be 29.7 million.
Texas’ projected water demand is 19 million acre-feet per year.
2030 Texas’ population is projected to be 33.7 million.
Texas’ projected water demand is 19.8 million acre-feet per year.
2040 Texas’ population is projected to be 37.7 million.
Texas’ projected water demand is 20.5 million acre-feet per year.
2050 Texas’ population is projected to be 41.9 million.
Texas’ projected water demand is 21.2 million acre-feet per year.
2060 Texas’ population is projected to be 46.3 million.
Texas’ projected water demand is 22 million acre-feet per year.
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