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Water + Weather for July 2022 Posted on August 09, 2022


Dr. Mark Wentzel – Hydrologist, Texas Water Development Board       

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Texas Water Development Board's latest Water and Weather report. I'm Dr. Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist in the Surface Water Division here at the agency. And today, we'll be taking a look at conditions for our state at the end of July and how those conditions compare to the historic 2011 drought. Let's take a look at some of the big water and weather headlines. 

July was warmer and drier than normal for much of the state, the fifth consecutive month with those conditions. At the end of July, drought conditions covered 97 percent of the state, up 11 percentage points from the end of June. Storage in our water supply reservoirs is at 71 percent of capacity, 13 percentage points below normal for this time of year. But from a surface water supply perspective, most of Texas is better off than during the 2011 drought. Let's dig into that last headline a little deeper. 

The dark line on this chart shows how storage in our water supply reservoirs this year compares to minimum, maximum, and median values for the day of the year from data going back to 1990. Also displayed are lighter lines that show how we did in 2021 and 2020, and a red line that shows how we did in 2011. There's no doubt that 2022 has taken a toll on our water supply reservoirs across the state. We began the year at 78 percent of capacity and fell seven and a half percentage points by the end of July. But things changed even more rapidly in 2011. That year, we began the year at 80 percent of capacity, a bit better than this year. But by the end of July, storage had dropped 11 percentage points, leaving us about two percentage points lower than our conditions in 2022. But conditions do vary across the state, and not everyone is better off than they were in 2011. Let's take a closer look.

On this map, we're looking at conditions in 20 individual municipal surface water supply systems across our state at the end of July 2022. The size of the circle is scaled to the capacity, and the color corresponds to the condition of each system. The bluer the color, the closer to full. The redder the color, the closer to empty. 

How do our current conditions compare to 2011? On this chart, we've included a number showing the difference in percentage points between each system's condition at the end of July 2022 compared to July 2011. Red numbers show less content. Black numbers show more content relative to 2011. What stands out? There are a few systems clustered in South Texas that are significantly worse off this year than in 2011. At the same time, there are more systems in West Texas and in the Panhandle where conditions are significantly better. Why the difference? There is a different pattern of drought on the landscape between the two years, but the real difference is how these systems began in 2011 and 2022. In 2011, the systems in South Texas began the year full or nearly full after an abundance of rainfall in 2010. By contrast, the systems in West Texas were very low after a decade-long decline in reservoir volumes. In 2022, systems in West Texas and the Panhandle began the year in relatively good shape, while those in South Texas were well below normal for the time of year.

Bottom line? Statewide, our water supply systems are doing better in 2022 than in 2011. But a few systems, especially those in South Texas, are under much more pressure this year. That concludes our report. Until next time, I hope you all stay healthy and safe.

This article is posted in Weather / Drought / Water Supply .