Little relief

Rainy weather was nice but area's historic drought continues

Water running down the streets of Rockdale, Ham Branch full to the brim, even the Little River spilling over its banks. Does the recent rainy weather mean the drought is over?

Not even close.

What's been unique about the dry weather which has plagued parts of Texas, including the Rockdale area, is that's it's been so prolonged and so localized.

One week into September, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, which keeps track of such things, one quarter of Texas—roughly from the Milam-Bell county area south—was classified as under "exceptional drought" conditions.

That's the worst of the center's four designations which are, in descending order, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional.

After the 11.2-inch downpour a couple of weekends ago, Milam County's status was upgraded from "exceptional" to "severe." That's still not good.

Center statistics indicate this drought began in September, 2007, and is entering its third year. It's been aggravated by a historic run of 100-degree temperatures which have accelerated drying conditions.

An example. The recent rains added about 10,000 acrefeet to Lakes Travis and Buchanan in the Hill Country above Austin.

That sounds like a lot. It is, in fact, less than one percent of the amount needed to refill those lakes. Travis and Buchanan are currently listed as 40 percent full.

Wonder why water conservation and use issues have become crucial in Texas? Consider this. Travis and Buchanan provide drinking water to over one million Central Texans.

That certainly has consequences for our area which is trying to protect its groundwater from export to places like metro Austin, one of those places that's getting thirstier by the minute.

Anyone who's been to the Texas Panhandle, or further away, during the past year knows this extreme drought is oddly localized. The only other place is the U.S. currently listed as under a severe drought is part of Hawaii.

The rain was nice and we'll be grateful for more. But the drought isn't over.—M.B.

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2009-09-24 digital edition

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