Feb 15, 2012

Texas Drought 2012 - An Update from the Professionals

This blog, by state of Texas climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, summarizes reports made during a day long forum of water related professionals, Monday. “Texas Drought 2012 — Are We Prepared?" was presented by The University of Texas’s new Center for Integrated Earth System Science.  "The speakers provided a broad overview and update of the drought, its impacts, agency responses, and issues raised by the drought." (Nielsen-Gammon)

A few highlights:
  • Texas Water Development Board -- "The number of water suppliers with water restrictions in place continues to increase despite the recent rains."
  • Texas Division of Emergency Management -- "There are 100-200 systems in Texas that have surface water only and are upstream of a reservoir. The cost of trucking in water to (a small community, population 6000) would be over $60,000/day.
  • TDEM -- "Loss of water supplies for power generation from reservoirs that are already historically low would cause rolling blackouts at a minimum. Vulnerability of industrial and chemical plants is in the process of being assessed."
  • Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority -- "The reconstruction of June Palmer Drought Severity Index goes back to 1500 (using bald cypress tree ring data). The worst extended drought (3-10 years) in central Texas was in 1708-1717, peaking in 1716. The 1950s drought of record shows up as the third-worst extended drought, behind the one listed above and the pre-Civil War drought. In West Texas, the 1950s drought is as bad or worse than previous tree-ring droughts."
  • San Antonio Water System -- "Desalinization of seawater is an expensive and energy-intensive alternative, and will be more practical for San Antonio when technology is developed to allow such plants to be started up and shut down on a seasonal basis."
  • City of Austin -- "Drought diminishes ecosystem services (the current term for aspects of the ecosystem that are economically or aesthetically valuable), affecting water quality (reduced dilution of pollutants, concentrated nutrients and algal blooms), quality and extent of aquatic ecosystems, fire danger along newly-dried streambeds. New natural ways of treating water are threatened as well, such as drying up of ponds and failure of liners,and marsh filtration systems losing vegetation. Taking serious action on water supplies during drought crises is not the best way of dealing with long-term problems, but it seems to be the only way serious action happens."
See John N-G's full blog here.
 US Drought Monitor, Feb. 2, 2012 image of TX. 

Austin, San Antonio, Lubbock, Laredo, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, 
S. Padre Island, currently under the highest drought stress.

Click to enlarge.

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