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Keep the rain boots out and an eye on river levels

Keep the rain boots out and an eye on river levels

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If you feel like it’s rained more than usual in recent months, you’re not wrong.

Rain levels are setting records, and expectations for June are more of the same, postponing those 100-degree summer days.

Rain totals across Texas during April and May totaled twice the normal average, said State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

Most of the Brazos River basin, from upstream of Possum Kingdom Lake to all the way down to the northern portion of Brazoria County in the lower basin, received in excess of 10 inches over the past two months, said Aaron Abel, Brazos River Authority water services manager.

Along the central portion of the Brazos River, the city of Waco set its own record. The area received the eighth wettest 12-month period on record, Abel said.  Also, the area upstream of the Possum Kingdom Lake near Abilene has had the fourth wettest 12-month period on record dating back 114 years, Abel said.

To say it’s been wet is an understatement.

Heavy amounts of rain have naturally led to saturated soil moisture levels, increasing flooding occurrences.

And more rain is coming.

Looking forward, June calls for near to below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall for most of the state, according to the weather service. It is possible the wet weather will continue through the summer, postponing any potential for drought through August.

The National Weather Service is predicting a weak El Nino continuing over the equatorial Pacific Ocean the rest of May and through summer.

“With an El Nino, there should continue to be periodic chances for rainfall,” according to the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. “Therefore, the prospects for stream flows higher than baseflow levels will remain a possibility at least into the beginning of the summer season.”

The bright side to all this water is that drought conditions are low. It wasn’t that long ago that the state was struggling with the lack of rainfall.

Currently, less than 1% of the state is abnormally dry, compared to 35% being abnormally dry three months ago, according to the National Weather Service. Texas lakes are 90.2% full, while a year ago they were at 84%.  The BRA System of water supply reservoirs remains at 100% full. 

Drought conditions are expected to stay low through August as early summer weather conditions should be cooler and wetter than usual, according to the weather service.

Interruptiblewater

With a wetter-than-normal forecast, will the BRA be lowering reservoir levels so there is room for more water?  The answer is no. 

The BRA does not pre-release based on weather forecasts for several reasons.

Even with today's technology, meteorologists cannot precisely predict how much it will rain or exactly where it will fall. Predictions also can’t reveal how much runoff finds its way into a reservoir. The rain can occur in areas where it was not expected, or an area may receive much less or much more rain than originally predicted.

If the BRA started pre-releasing water in anticipation of rain, and then rather than excessive rainfall upstream of a reservoir, it actually fell downstream on top of the water that was in the river from the pre-release, then the pre-release would have made downstream flooding worse.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the rain did not materialize as forecasted, water supply that was stored in the reservoir and contracted for use by cities, industry, agriculture and mining interests would not be available when it was needed. 

The BRA exists to develop, manage and protect the water resources of the Brazos River basin.

To view the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service interactive map page, click here.

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