Texas Towns Face Water Shortage

Can El Nino help?

May 20, 2014
Outside Magazine

Help Wanted: Water, rain.    Wikimedia Commons

Rain has been rare in Texas for years now, but for some communities the need for water is growing urgent. Thirty-four Texas communities, mostly in the northern part of the state, currently have fewer than 90 days of water left, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. A dozen of those say they have fewer than 45 days. Residents have taken to having water delivered by the truckload or are paying exorbitant fees to dig for it.

"We have sort of taken water for granted for a long time. And I think that time is over," said St. Mary's University water law professor Amy Hardberger. "I think its valuation has gone up. Some communities are in more trouble than others."

Pebble Beach, home to the now rapidly shrinking Medina Lake, and Bandera County recently received a $350,000 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture to build a 30,000-gallon storage tank for the community. With a little luck and a little rain, they might be able to water their lawns for the first time in three years.

The approaching El Nino weather cycle could break the drought and bring heavy rains, but that would carry its own risks. The 1997–1998 cycle brought heavy rains to the region—so much so that central Texas was hit hard by floods. Communities could soon find themselves praying for just the right amount of rain.

Not Now

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