Drought in Texas

Texas is no stranger to drought. The seven-year drought of record in the 1950s was a turning point in Texas history that led to the formation of the Texas Water Development Board. Since then, Texas has faced several droughts including the most recent and most severe drought that began in 2011. This website brings together relevant resources, links, data and analyses to provide updated information on drought in Texas.

Texas is a big place and we don't always get to see what is happening in different regions of our great state. Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) and the TWDB invite the public to help us capture what the drought looks like for folks across the state by sharing drought-related photographs on Flickr.

Pedernales River at Hwy 71 crossing

Pedernales River at Hwy 71 crossing (taken on August 29, 2011 by Texas Parks and Wildlife)

TWDB and Drought

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) serves on the Texas Drought Preparedness Council and the Emergency Drinking Water Task Force. The Task Force is responsible for helping water suppliers find solutions to water supply shortages. The Council is charged with supporting drought management efforts in the state and with conducting drought monitoring, assessment, preparedness, mitigation, and assistance. To serve this purpose, the Council prepares monthly drought situation reports on the status of drought conditions in the state and delivers these reports to state leadership. The latest monthly report can be viewed at the Council's home page.

The TWDB also provides financial assistance to entities across Texas in the form of both grants and loans. Assistance can be used for planning, acquisition, design, and construction of water-related infrastructure as well as other water quality improvements. Financial Assistance Project Teams for each of six geographic regions are designed to assist entities with the application process.

TWDB staff prepare monthly Texas Water Conditions reports. These reports document storage in the state's reservoirs as well as groundwater levels in the state's aquifers. In addition, TWDB issues a weekly Legislative Drought Update and maintains information on reservoir storage and groundwater well levels across the state.

The TWDB is also a cooperator with the U.S. Geological Survey in monitoring real-time stream flows across the state.

The TWDB, in coordination with regional water planning groups across the state, develops a state water plan that plans for a repeat of the drought of record. The latest state water plan and planning efforts are available on the Water Resources Planning Information section of the TWDB website.

In addition to this website the TWDB publishes a PDF summary of TWDB's Drought Resources.

Online Drought Resources

Extensive drought-related resources are also available online. The following categories include commonly referenced drought-related websites.

What is Drought?

Drought Status

  • North American Drought Monitor [We use this map to get a broader perspective on the drought, especially in those areas outside of Texas that impact water resources in Texas, namely southern Colorado and northern New Mexico (flows in the Rio Grande and levels in Elephant Butte Reservoir that impact water supplies in the El Paso area), eastern New Mexico (impacts to flows in the Canadian and Pecos rivers), and northern Mexico south of Big Bend (impacts to inflows to the Rio Grande). Note that this map reflects rainfall and soil moisture deficits and does not necessarily indicate water-supply status. Also note that the D0-Abnormally Dry category is not technically drought and represents a transition into or out of drought conditions.]
  • Texas Drought Monitor [We use this map to focus in on Texas. Historical data for Texas is available here. Note that this map reflects rainfall and soil moisture deficits and does not necessarily indicate water-supply status. Also note that the D0-Abnormally Dry category is not technically drought and represents a transition into or out of drought conditions.]
  • Texas Drought Status Over Time [We use the graph at the bottom to assess how drought conditions have changed over time.]
  • Drought in Your Backyard [Type in your zip code and find out your Drought Monitor intensity and Palmer Drought Severity Index. Fun for the whole family!]

Drought Impacts

  • Rainfall (Precipitation) [We use this site to quantify rainfall deficits due to the drought. Note that there are options to compare rainfall to average conditions over the past month, past three months, and past year.]
  • Soil Moisture [We use this site, particularly the Monthly Percentile, to assess soil moisture conditions across the state. Soil moisture affects crops as well as runoff into rivers and reservoirs.]
  • Streamflows [We use this site to see how drought might be affecting streamflows across the state. We chose the gages shown at this site to reflect relatively undeveloped areas not impacted by reservoir releases or wastewater return flows. This gives us a sense of natural runoff into rivers and streams that might be expected above a reservoir. We consider flows less than 30 percent to be low. More detailed (and less restrictive) information on streamflows is available here.]
  • Priority Calls on Surface Water [We use this site to see the status of priority calls on surface water. Texas manages surface water through prior appropriations. When a senior right holder doesn’t have enough water, he or she can make a priority call to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to require more junior, upstream rightholders to stop taking water from the river.]
  • Reservoir Levels [We use this site to see how drought might be affecting reservoir levels across the state, including Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is located in New Mexico but is an important source of water to the El Paso area.]
  • Groundwater Levels [We use this site to see how drought might be affecting groundwater levels across the state. Note that water levels in many aquifers decline every year regardless of drought but may decline faster during droughts. Information on a well important for the management of the San Antonio Segment of the Edwards {Balcones Fault Zone} Aquifer, J-17, can be found here, here, and here.]
  • Public Water Systems [We use this site to see how many and which public water supply systems have been impacted by drought through the activation of their drought contingency plans. A table of the affected communities and which ones have reported less than 180, 90, and 45 days of water is available here.]
  • Vegetation Drought Response Index [We use this site to see how vegetation in the state is responding to the drought.]
  • County Burn Bans [We use this site to see which counties have instituted burn bans.]
  • Wildfires [We use this site to see how many wildfires have occurred in Texas and the current status of wildfires.]
  • Drought Impact Reporter [We use this site to gage media and other reports about drought impacts.]
  • Governer's Drought Disaster Declaration [Based on input from the Drought Preparedness Council, the Governor makes a drought disaster proclamation that is delivered to county judges who in turn share the proclamation with public water supply systems. Notified systems must then implement their water conservation plans and drought contingency plans as applicable.]

Drought Outlook

  • One-Month Outlook [We use this site to see a projection by the Climate Prediction Center on temperature and rainfall over the next month. There are other projections that extend out as far as 12.5 months available at this site (although we don’t necessarily believe anything beyond three months).]
  • U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook (three-month outlook) [We use this site to see a projection by the Climate Prediction Center on expected drought conditions three months out.]
  • Atlantic Hurricane Outlook [We use this site to see what the outlook is for the hurricane season.]
  • Current Tropical Weather [We use this site to see what the outlook is for the hurricane season.]
  • El Niño/Southern Oscillation Outlook [We use this site to assess the likelihood of El Niño (cooler and wetter Texas winters but suppression of tropical systems) or La Niña (warmer and dryer Texas winters) conditions. Figure 6 in the outlook shows a spaghetti chart of different statistical and dynamical model projections as well as associated ensemble means results.]
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation [We use this site to see the status of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation refers to long-term fluctuations in sea surface temperatures between the western north Pacific Ocean and the Pacific coast of North America. A PDO “negative” or “cool phase”, when warmer than normal sea surface temperatures prevail in the western north Pacific Ocean and cooler than normal sea surface temperatures prevail off the Pacific coast of North America, is generally associated with higher temperatures and lower rainfall in the summer over Texas. A PDO “positive” or “warm phase”, when cooler than normal temperatures prevail in the western north Pacific and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures prevail off the Pacific coast, is generally associated with lower temperatures and higher rainfall in the summer over Texas.]
  • Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation [We use this site to see the status of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation refers to long-term fluctuations in sea surface temperatures in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the northern Atlantic Ocean are generally associated with higher temperatures and lower rainfall in the summer over Texas as well as more tropical systems turning into hurricanes in the Atlantic basin but fewer tropical systems moving into the Gulf of Mexico and making landfall over Texas.]
  • Amount of Rainfall Needed to Come Out of Drought [We use this site to gage how much rainfall is needed to come out of drought and the odds of that happening over different time periods.]
  • Wildland Fire Outlook We use this site to gage where wildfires might be an issue in the near future.
  • Southern Plains Drought Outlook Summary [We use this site to see a summary of drought predictions for our region.]

Drought Response

  • Texas Drought Preparedness Council [TWDB is a member of this Council, which is charged with preparing the state’s Drought Preparedness Plan and situation reports that are delivered to state leadership. The Council also coordinates the state response to drought.]
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality [The Commission provides hands-on assistance to communities responding to drought.]
  • Texas Water Development Board [The Board not only provides information on drought and water resources but can also provide financial assistance to help communities respond to drought. Information on our financial assistance programs is here.]
  • Texas Department of Agriculture [The Department may have grants to assist rural communities struggling with drought.]
  • Texas Water Infrastructure Coordination Committee [The Committee is made up of state and federal funding agencies, technical assistance providers, and other members of the water community and works with entities across Texas to identify and develop solutions to water challenges brought on by drought.]
  • Agricultural Drought Task Force [A task force focused on drought and agriculture in Texas.]
  • Drought Annex [The Drought Annex, which is considered the state’s drought preparedness plan, is prepared by the Drought Preparedness Council and serves as the drought-focused component of the State of Texas Emergency Management Plan.]
  • Emergency Drinking Water Contingency Annex [The Emergency Drinking Water Contingency Annex is a component of the Drought Preparedness Plan. The annex focuses on developing procedures to enable public water systems to provide an adequate supply of potable water to customers, and it is designed to mitigate the impacts of prolonged drought.]

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