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Governor Abbott declares state of disaster due to drought

Governor Abbott declares state of disaster due to drought

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continued a declared state of disaster as the number of counties across the state facing drought conditions increased to 22.

Even in light of the expansion, the water supply within the Brazos River Authority basin remains high.

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As of Feb. 6, 92 percent of the BRA’s water supply was full, while 42 percent of the Brazos River basin reported some form of drought intensity. The BRA System includes 11 reservoirs, of which, three are owned and operated by the BRA: Lakes Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone. The BRA leases water supply storage space from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Lakes Proctor, Whitney, Aquilla, Belton, Stillhouse Hollow, Georgetown, Granger, and Somerville.

The concept behind water supply reservoirs is to capture and store water during times of rain for use when the rain stops or slows. As a wholesale water provider, the BRA relies on those reservoirs to ensure residents, municipalities, farmers and industry have water even during the most severe drought conditions. Therefore, BRA staff monitor weather conditions and reservoir statuses continually during drier periods.

In a Jan. 31 statement, Abbott said significantly low rainfall and prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire across these portions of the state. The drought conditions pose an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy, Abbott said. Abbott authorized the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with this disaster.

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The 22 counties include: Anderson, Bell, Blanco, Burleson, Burnet, Cherokee, Dimmit, Freestone, Henderson, Jackson, Karnes, Kinney, Liano, Maverick, Navarro, Real, Smith, Uvalde, Val Verde, Williamson, Zapata, and Zavala counties.

A drought is generally considered a prolonged period of less-than-normal precipitation such that the lack of water causes below-average streamflow or lake levels, lowered soil moisture, crop damage, or economic losses.

Recent isolated pockets of heavy rainfall helped improve drought conditions across some portions of the state, according to the Office of the Texas State Climatologist. However, due to the isolated nature of the heaviest rainfall, the parts of the state currently experiencing severe drought conditions are still receiving average or slightly below-average rainfall. Drought conditions have worsened in three separate areas with the most significant degradation occurring in the South Texas climate region where precipitation totals are beginning to fall more behind, according to the Office of the Texas State Climatologist.

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Texas was not blessed with a wealth of natural lakes. Following the drought of the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state organizations - such as the Brazos River Authority - built numerous reservoirs for both flood control and water supply. The stored water in the reservoirs provides access to water supply even in these exceptional drought conditions. Though it can be frustrating for those who use or live near the lakes to see the water recede, the lakes are actually serving their purpose as designed.

During drought and when water supply is needed, the reservoirs are able to release water to flow downstream to those in need. The flexibility of the lakes in the Brazos River basin ensures that they will continue to meet Texans' needs, whether in times of drought or flood.

The BRA’s reservoir projections and current drought information specific to the BRA system, can be found here.

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