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Water + Weather Special Edition: Drought in 2022 and a look forward to 2023 Posted on January 10, 2023


Dr. Mark Wentzel – Hydrologist, Texas Water Development Board 

Happy new year, everyone, and welcome to the Texas Water Development Board's latest Water and Weather report. I'm Dr. Mark Wenzel, hydrologist in the Surface Water Division at the agency. And today, we're going to take a look back at drought conditions in 2022 and a look forward to 2023.

One of the big stories of 2022 was the drought that we experienced across the state. It wasn't as bad as 2011, but it was the worst drought statewide since 2011. 2011, of course, was notorious as the worst one-year drought in Texas history. So, 2022 wasn't quite that bad, but at least through the first seven months of the year, precipitation in 2022 was tracking really close to 2011.

That, of course, was having an impact on our water supply reservoirs. Typically, we get a little bit of recovery in our water supply reservoirs in April, May, June, as we expect more precipitation in those months. We didn't quite see that much of a recovery this year in 2022. In August of 2022, we did get some relief in parts of the state. The Dallas area, for instance, experienced its second wettest August on record, and, actually, a little too much rainfall too quickly caused some flooding problems in that area. But it did bring some relief in terms of rainfall deficits. And that continued for Dallas through the second half of the year. They ended the year within one or two inches of the total annual rainfall amount of what's considered normal for that area.

On the other side of things, the San Antonio area is kind of the poster child for continuation of drought in 2022. And heading into 2023, they've experienced rainfall deficits as much as 20 inches from below what they would expect normal rainfall to be during the year. That has kind of covered the area in extreme and exceptional drought. They're actually experiencing conditions a little bit worse than in 2011. That, of course, had an impact on water resources in the area. Lake Medina is within a few percentage points of the worst conditions that it experienced in the 2011-2014 drought. The Edwards Aquifer in the area of San Antonio is also in stage three drought restrictions, and they are experiencing the worst aquifer conditions there since the 2011-2014 drought.

So what can we expect in the new year? One of the driving forces behind the drought conditions we experienced in 2022 was the La Niña conditions of the equatorial Pacific, that generally result in reduced rainfall and warmer conditions during the Texas winter. 2022 was the third consecutive winter that we had those conditions. The National Weather Service is expecting that La Niña will dissipate, and then, possibly by the summer to next fall, we might actually be in El Niño conditions, the opposite to La Niña. And those conditions actually bring Texas a wetter and cooler winter than is normal. So, we hope to have some relief by the spring, and it may not be sufficient to get us out of drought, but we do expect that there'll be some easing of drought conditions this spring. And then possibly next fall and winter, we could see drought removal in the state.

That concludes our look back at 2022. Until next time, I hope you all stay healthy and safe.

This article is posted in Weather / Drought .