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Texas Drought Worries Escalate

Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Only a quarter-inch of rain fell – on average — across Texas in November, prompting meteorologists and climatologists to worry about a second (third? fourth? thousandth?) wave of the state’s crippling drought. The rain report for Dallas-Fort Worth for the month was even more bleak – .05 inches, according to the Star-Telegram, the fifth-driest on record.

So where does that leave us? If you look at the fancy map atop these words, D-FW is in much better shape than most of the state. The Panhandle and far South Texas are still mired in droughts of epic proportions, far worse than our area. Take a closer look, though, and the picture becomes less clear.

Source: Water Data for Texas

I pulled these numbers this morning. What they show:

- okay water reserves
- considerably better reserves than a year ago
- much worse reserves than six months ago

These are just for the Dallas area (it pulls data from the area reservoirs; Fort Worth has its own, worse data).

Source: Texas Water Development Board

“I say we are in year three of a drought now and the short-range forecast is not promising. There’s nothing out there that will distinguish this from the drought of record in the 1950s which lasted six or seven years,” Texas state climatologist John Nielsen Gammon told the Star-Telegram. “It’s grim, it looks like Texas is going to have between the second- to fourth-driest October-November period on record,” he said. “We’re ahead of the drought pace from two years ago.”

Meteorologists originally envisioned a wet El Nino system that would replenish reservoirs, sate grounds, and remove water restrictions. That’s no longer the forecast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Warning: that is incredibly long and boring.)

Some quick hits:

- Areas of Dallas County’s vegetation are in pre-drought to moderate drought conditions

- About a quarter of Texas water systems (1,025 of 4,684) are under voluntary or mandatory water restrictions. That number seems low; the only explanation I can think of is that a majority of the heaviest-hit regions are well-reliant, and not public-based.

- That dwindling water may soon become more expensive.

“We saw some brief improvement in late 2011, early 2012, and now boom! We’re right back in a pretty dry pattern again,” NOAA meteorologist Victor Murphy told StateImpact Texas. “So, arguably, you could make the case that perhaps we’re in the third year of drought here in Texas. Especially certain parts of the state, we obviously are.”

To check this all out for yourselves, head to waterdatafortexas.org.