We are entering the twenty-fourth month of drought here in the Hill Country of Central Texas. I'm going to begin making short notes on local drought effects, mostly for my own records, but also with the thought that some of you may be interested, either because you're local or because you're considering moving here. The photo: one of our drought-stressed cypress trees, turning russet in July, as it usually does after the first frost.
Two drought-related events, both recent. West of San Antonio, at the southern edge of the Edwards aquifer, the city of Kerrville was told to reduce the amount of water it draws from the Guadalupe River, which is down to 90% of its normal flow. This will force the city to pull more water from the aquifer, which will reduce the amount of aquifer supply in communities outside the city. Farther north, in a 180-home subdivision (White Tail Estates) between Georgetown and Leander, on the Trinity aquifer, wells have gone dry. Residents have the choice of drilling deeper or going on the subdivision is being added to the Georgetown water system. Since Georgetown gets its water from Lake Georgetown, from which the city takes 40 million gallons every day, this will (eventually) place more stress on the lake. But not right away. It will take 15 years to complete the project.
Our wells here at Meadow Knoll are still holding, although its impossible to know the situation below ground. We're careful, and have a small water catchment system to augment our aquifer withdrawal. But the only "rescue" for Texas is the forecast El Nino--or a hurricane or two (which nobody wants).
Global warming? There was a seven-year drought here in the 50s, so this has happened before--at a time when the region was much less populated than it is now. But for me, at least, it's not possible to think about this drought without thinking of man-made climate change. For the last two years, here on the 98th meridian, we've received around 15" of rain annually, half of our long-term "normal" of thirty inches.
Reading note. [The hundredth meridian] divides the country into its two most significant halves--the one receiving at least twenty inches of precipitation a year, the other generally receiving less. Any place with less than twenty inches of rainfall is hostile terrain to a farmer depending solely on the sky, and a place that receives seven inches or less--as Phoenix, El Paso, and Reno do--is arguably no place to inhabit at all. Everything depends on the manipulation of water...--Mark Reisner, Cadillac Desert