DALLAS — Steady rainfall through the year has helped Texas emerge from the harshest drought conditions, but pockets of the state still have reservoirs alarmingly low and drinking water in short supply.
The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated Thursday that Texas is no longer contending with “exceptional drought,” which is the most serious of five levels. In October 2011, 88 percent of the state was in exceptional drought.
The drought map this week shows a few regions of “severe” drought remain, such as in the Panhandle, in the area of Wichita Falls and west of Austin in Kerr and Gillespie counties. Much of the spine of Texas extending from the Panhandle south into Central Texas still has either abnormally dry conditions or moderate drought.
But a recent deluge has brought 10 inches of rain to parts of Dallas-Fort Worth over the last week, the Houston area has received more than 10 inches this week and hard rains have saturated the ground in Central Texas and elsewhere. Forecasts across much of the state call for showers in the coming days.
Many of the lakes and reservoirs in North Texas, East Texas and near the Gulf are either at full capacity or in excess of 80 percent full.
But others are in need of plenty more moisture. For instance, two reservoirs in the Central Texas county of Tom Green — O.C. Fisher Lake and Twin Buttes Reservoir — are at 0.5 percent and 3.1 percent capacity, respectively. Palo Duro Reservoir at the top of the Panhandle has just 1.5 percent of capacity.
State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said the ground is unable to soak up more rainfall, so with each additional storm, depleted lakes are apt to see rising water levels. And as one lake fills, other watersheds downstream benefit from the runoff, he said. “May is normally one of the wettest months of the year, but what we’ve had is even unusual for May,” Nielsen-Gammon said.
The amount of precipitation may diminish in the summer months but “in the fall and winter we should return to enhanced chances of above-normal rainfall,” he said.
Jessica Zuba, director of water planning and development for the Texas Water Development Board, said the rains haven't prompted cities or water districts to postpone multimillion-dollar projects to drill new wells or find other sources of water for their residents.
A shortage of water still exists, she said, and water conservation efforts remain necessary. “Just because it's raining doesn’t mean conservation should stop,” she said.
Gene Hall, spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, said storms this year have posed problems for farmers, explaining that cotton and corn crops in the spring were “hailed out.”
“We need to dry out. There’s field work that needs to be done,” he said, particularly by livestock owners who need to cut hay to feed their cattle. “We’re recovering, not recovered, yet from the drought,” he said. (AP)
For more: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/