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With the rain and floods Texas has gathered this year, is the state still in a

Dayna Seiffert

Texas has been experiencing droughts for a very long time now, dating
all the way back to the 1950s with a record long 7 year drought. Since then
Texas has had reoccurring droughts throughout history such as the worst one
out of them all starting in 20111. However as of recent times, Texas has
experienced a significant amount of rainfall in the summer of 2015. With the
rain and floods that came with that precipitation led me to question whether
Texas is still considered to be in a drought. Even though Texas and a good
portion of the United States received rainfall, Texas is still considered to be in
a drought, just a less extreme one than before.
Since the beginning starting in the 1950s and so on, droughts have led
Texas to create the Texas Water Development Board2. The Texas Water
Development Board is a group of people that was banned together to
manage the state of Texas water supply. This board along with the University
of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences created a new forecast
method based off a statistics model to help better predict the amount of
rainfall areas will receive, even predicting upcoming droughts 3. With this new
method they came up with a prediction of the amount of precipitation Texas
would receive throughout the months of May to July of 2015 as seen in the
graph shown in Figure 1. With figures like this and the other recently released
picture from the Palmer Z Index, which can show the moisture level of an




area for that month, as depicted in Figure 2 for the month of June, it could
easily give people the reason or thought to believe that Texas would no
longer be in a drought or at least be in a moderate stage drought at this
point. Although with that possible thought people may believe, it is not the
Even though Texas has indeed received more rain than in the past few
months, Texas is still considered to be in a pretty bad drought. With
reservoirs and wells in the West, Central, and South areas of Texas still
seeing not a lot of improvement for the drought that occurred in 2011, some
of the water recourses either reaching a flat-line limit or simply still
decreasing in the amount of water available in those areas4 . The United
States Drought Monitor also reported in July that even with scattered
showers in the Plains of the United States, Texas would remain dry5. Not only
does drought in Texas affect the people with simply having limited water
supply but this causes a ripple effect that even affects state relations and big
environmental issues.
The years following the devastating 2011 drought, a lawsuit was filed
in 2013 with the United States Supreme Court that accused the state of New
Mexico with not fulfilling a water delivery commitment from the 1938 Rio



Grande Compact6. Stating that New Mexico is withholding water from the
state of Texas and New Mexico having the defense that the water they have
is what is entitled to them in the compact for farms and irrigation7. Even
though the case had not officially been picked up by the Supreme Court as of
that time, it was just one example of the disputes and arguments caused by
drought. Another example, one of environmental concern is the issue of
Hydraulic Fracturing. As Taelor A. Allen states in his journal, that since one of
the United States biggest commodities is with oil and gas production, oil and
gas production in shale fields necessitates a technique called hydraulic
fracturing, which requires large volumes of water to be injected at high
pressure to frac and release gas from an underground formation (2013,
489). This process can place a greater strain on the regional groundwater
supply in that area, which affects residents, farmers, etc. and leads to
question whether there are possible outcomes to help remedy this process to
where there is less groundwater used to help the people in a time of drought
who risk depletion.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which is the
environmental agency for the state of Texas, hosted emergency planning
workshops in 2012 to help better manage the water issue in Texas8. In these




meetings the group set up workshops within the United States that were
attended by people such as local officials in government, regional water
operators, and board members9. The workshops provided the people who
attended with information on how to deal with the drought issue, giving aid
of financial or managerial assistance for example, discussing emergency
plans for the next drought (such as drilling more wells and conservation),
providing additional information of the progress of the drought of 2011, and
giving a discussion on what the Drinking Water Task Force is10. The Texas
Department of Public Safety states that the Emergency Drinking Water Task
Force (EDWTF) will be established andsupport the efforts of local
jurisdictions to secure a reliable source of drinking and sanitation water
(N/A, A-3). These are just a few of the precautions and implications that
Texas and the United States took to help for future droughts to come.
Although there had been recent rains that have hit the United States
and floods that occurred in the state, Texas is still considered to be in a
drought. Policies have been made and precautions haven been taken such as
the workshops held in 2012 and the Drinking water Task Force, to help deal
with this environmental problem that still occurs frequently throughout the
States. However with the issue of hydraulic fracturing and as the strain that
drought causes on state relations continues it adds trouble to the already
existing problem that continues to grow in some parts of the country.




Figure 1: May through July Rainfall Probability

Note: This data comes from the UT News website from May 2015 to July
Figure 2: June 2015 Moisture Conditions

Note: This data comes from the NOAA website in June 2015 Palmer Z-Index.

Allen, Taelor A. 2013. The South Texas Drought and the Future of Groundwater Use
for Hydraulic

Fracturing in the Eagle Ford Shale. St. Mary's Law Journal. 44(2):489
Caputo, Anton and Merry Klonower. 2015. New Forecast Should Improve Texas
Summer Drought
Prediction.https://news.utexas.edu/2015/05/21/new-forecast-should-improvetexas-summerdrought- prediction. Last date accessed July 27, 2015
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. 2015.
State of the Climate: Drought for June 2015.
https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/201506. Last date accessed July 27,
Postel, Sandra. 2013. Drought Fuels Water War Between Texas and New Mexico.
http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/18/drought-fuels-water-warbetween-texasand-new-mexico/. Last date accessed July 27, 2015
Rippey, Brad. 2015. USDA Analysis: Drought expands in NW, SE in June; LA has
driest 4 years on
Record. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/USDMNews.aspx. Last date accessed
July 27, 2015
Texas Water Development Board. N/A. Drought in Texas.
Last date accessed July 27, 2015
U.S. Congress. Texas Department of Public Safety. 2012. Emergency Drinking Water
State of Texas
Drought Preparedness Plan. Congress., N/A., N/A
N/A. 2015. Drought Emergency Planning.
Last date accessed July 27, 2015