Texas' first 6 months could be among 10 driest
U.S. Water News Online
LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas is parched and hot. Again.
On the heels of a very wet 2007, about 95 percent of Texas is now in some stage of drought, with a sliver of two northwestern Panhandle counties garnering the worst status - exceptional - on the U.S. Drought Monitor map.
In late May, only about 59 percent of Texas had some degree of drought. A year ago 99 percent of the state was drought-free.
Worst hit now is the San Antonio area, which is in extreme drought and where only 3.94 inches of rain has fallen since Jan. 1. That is the driest ever for that time span, National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy in Fort Worth said.
That forced officials with the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which serves 1.7 million people, to implement the first stage of groundwater restrictions.
The 20 percent cutback on usage affects all municipal, industrial and agricultural users.
Officials with the two primary water suppliers to customers served by the aquifer — the city — owned San Antonio Water System and the Bexar Metropolitan Water District — won't yet pass the cutbacks on to customers. Each has water rights elsewhere to tap into to avoid imposing restrictions now.
The hot, dry conditions have diminished flows in many of Texas major rivers and are beginning to have a significant impact on the Hill Country and South Texas, according to a release from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“Conditions are such that the water tables are dropping,” commission spokeswoman Andrea Morrow said.
All temporary-use water rights to state surface water in the Hill Country have been suspended until further notice.
“The cities of Blanco in Blanco County and Kerrville in Kerr County have reached limits on how much water they can divert from rivers,” Al Segovia, the commission's South Texas watermaster, said in a statement.
While each city should have enough water through the summer from backup sources and conservation, now is the time to start saving, the release said.
Currently, 58 of the 4,646 public water systems in Texas have enacted water-use restrictions, an increase of 19 over last week. Of those, 25 are using mandatory watering schedules.
Burn bans are in effect in 116 of the state's 254 counties.
In late May, about 41 percent of the state had no drought, but a month later that percentage has dropped to 4.9 — all in the northern part of East Texas. Portions of Dallam and Sherman counties in the far northwest corner of the Panhandle have the worst status.
If no appreciable rains fall across the state in the final days of June, the first six months will be the 10th driest on record, Murphy said. The statewide average halfway through the year is 13.87 inches.
For January through May, the state was 2.33 inches below normal, the 23rd driest on record with only 8.61 inches.
June, normally among the wettest for Texas along with May, has been “exceedingly dry,” Murphy said.
The lack of rainfall in June has come along with some of the hottest temperatures in three of the state's major metropolitan areas. Recently, Austin had the hottest June on record, with an average temperature of 87.6 degrees, or 7 degrees above normal.
The city has already set a record with 19 days of temperatures at or above 100 degrees. City records date to 1897.
Also recently, San Antonio has had the second hottest June ever. The average temperature was 86.7 degrees, or 5.6 degrees above normal.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area is having its third-warmest June. The average temperature was 86.5, or 6.2 degrees above normal.
For agriculture, the heat and lack of rainfall this year could spell record losses. In 2006, the state sustained $4.1 billion in losses to crops in livestock. This year that loss could be higher as ag producers also are footing the bill for higher fuel and fertilizer costs.
Since 2004, the state has been on “a five-year rollercoaster” with rainfall, Murphy said.
It was wet in 2004, followed by two years of very dry conditions. Last year was wet and this year is shaping up to be dry again.
“It's been feast or famine since 2004,” Murphy said.
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