May’s heavy rains have raised Texas reservoirs to 83 percent full, compared with 66 percent a year ago, according to the Texas Water Development Board. On the surface, that is good news for Texas, which has struggled with severe drought for years. But water experts say what looks like the end of a drought might just be the middle of one.
As of this week, more than 1,000 Texas public water systems were enforcing water restrictions. The good news: about 70 percent of Texas is now drought free, and the three-month outlook shows drought improving or ending in August.
But it’s tough to know when a drought starts and when it ends. John Tracy, president of the American Water Resources Association, says in the short term, Texas has more water than it can deal with.
“But when you look out a month or two, if the rain completely shuts off and they go back into low precipitation for the rest of the summer,” he says, “you can find yourself back in a drought pretty quickly.”
Tracy says drought is simply when you have a hard time meeting water needs. And if groundwater and reservoir levels are any indication, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Paul Block, who teaches civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says record-breaking rains have bolstered many Texas reservoirs, “but they are by no means full yet.”
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