Texas in severe drought, South Plains region looks good - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/16/09

Texas in severe drought, South Plains region looks good

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By Ben Lawson - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The worst drought to hit Texas in nearly a decade has gripped roughly 75 percent of the state, but here on the South Plains conditions are getting better.  Recent rains have moved most of the area out of drought conditions all together.

The latest drought monitor map shows only a small part of the area is abnormal.  It's a much different story in central and south Texas where they're experiencing extremely dry conditions.  In fact, 18 percent of the state is labeled in exceptional drought. That's up from 14 percent last week.

Farmers and ranchers face staggering losses in cotton, corn and cattle due to the dry conditions.  The state hasn't had this much land in exceptional drought since January of 2000 according to drought monitor records, and the effects are clearly visible. "There's probably more water missing from the lake right now than what's left in the lake," Lake Travis resident Trey Lessard said. 

Near Austin, Lake Travis is losing about a foot of water a week. Experts at the Lower Colorado River Authority can actually see the drop almost by the minute. It's so low that the last public boat ramp is expected to close soon. "The lack of rainfall hasn't recharged any of the aquifers or any of the surface water sources," National Weather Service Meteorologist Jason Jordan said. 

The threat of wildfire prompted Governor Rick Perry to issue a disaster declaration for 167 counties. That includes a few counties in the NewsChannel 11 viewing area like Borden, Crosby, Garza, Lynn and Scurry Counties.

Rancher Debbie Davis says she's never seen conditions this bad. "Our pastures are dry, yellow, it looks like winter to me," Davis said. 

Meanwhile, in and around the Lubbock area dry conditions have subsided. "We've been fortunate in that we've actually had storm systems move through pretty much through the first part of this year through the spring and into the summer with more on the way," Jordan said. 

That doesn't mean we're out of the woods. One of Lubbock's main water sources, Lake Meredith north of Amarillo is on the decline. It had been feeding about 50 percent of the Hub City's water use. That recently dropped to about 30 percent, increasing demand on well water.

Still, Jordan says right now, the South Plains region is lucky. "With the recent rainfall that we've had, we've actually dropped out most of the area out of drought conditions to normal. There still are a few areas that are abnormally dry, especially in the south central South Plains, but here in the next couple of days we are expecting more rainfall, so we could see the entire area drop out of drought conditions here pretty soon," Jordan said. 

The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority also recently approved bids to begin phase two of the Roberts County Well Field project. Those bids came in lower than expected, so they'll be able to build more wells which will benefit our area.    

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