The current drought that is plaguing much of Texas is on its way to breaking every record in the almanac as it enters its seventh month. Many are wondering whether the end is in sight, while older residents are reminded of the six-year drought that began in 1951.
The soil has not yet reached the level of dryness experienced toward the end of that long-ago drought, but the crisis point has already been reached in the country’s second-largest agricultural state. Climatologists call the occurrence “textbook” and even somewhat predictable given what is now known about the effects of La Nina, but now there are more people, more farms and a larger need for water.
Several towns and cities have implemented water restrictions, some for the first time in their history. In other areas, water boards and other administrative bodies are calling for drought contingency plans and voluntary restrictions as they prepare for a worst-case scenario.
And for some, that scenario has already arrived. Cattle ranchers have been forced to sell off their herds at lower prices and in some cases even cull them in an effort to avoid paying supplemental feed costs. Non-irrigational farmers are facing an even worse outlook – once water delivery systems begin implementing mandatory restrictions their only hope will be rain, and predictions for that are grim.
Texas farmers estimate they have already lost $1.5 billion are on track to lose billions more. A delicately balanced hope is that hurricane season will bring enough precipitation far enough west to help save this year’s plantings while not devastating their neighbors with storm damage.
The US Drought Monitor shows that nearly all of Texas is suffering from a lack of water. And, the situation will not be improved as the summer season sets in and temperatures start to rise. Where once a drought could mean forgoing watering the lawn or filling the pool, Texans may face much more severe limitations this year.