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Bureau Seminar, January 10, 2014

Current drought conditions and current and future water needs in the Central Texas area

Link to streaming video: available 01.10.2014 at 1:55pm

Raymond Slade, Jr.
USGS (Ret.)

Based on precipitation data, at least some local television weatherman have declared that the Central Texas drought has ended.  However, drought has many definitions--for example, drought measures can be based on fire risk, soil moisture, and hydrologic conditions (i.e., streamflow, reservoir storage, and groundwater levels).  These differing measures often produce conflicting assessments of the duration and severity of drought.  For example, reservoir and groundwater levels remain very low throughout the Central Texas area.

Additionally, many news reports have declared that the current drought is the worst on record.  However, historical measurements of drought indicate that the 2011 - 2013 drought is minor compared to those in the past 100 years and, based on precipitation constructed from tree ring analyses, even less significant based on the past 2000 years.  Based on precipitation totals and air temperatures, the 2011 drought was declared as the worst drought on record--however a one-year drought threatens reservoir and groundwater levels much less than, for example, the seven-year drought of 1950-1957.

Severe drought presents a substantial threat to water supplies in Central Texas.  2011 Planning Data from the Texas Water Development Board document that severe drought conditions would cause 43 water suppliers in 8 of the 10 Capital Area counties to sustain municipal water shortages.  Additionally, the data indicate that by 2060, severed drought conditions would cause municipal water demand to exceed water supply by 65 percent, resulting in water shortages for 66 water suppliers or about one-half of those in the area.

About the presenter:
Raymond Slade, Jr.
served as a Hydrologist for 33 years with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)  in Texas until he retired about 10 years ago.  He has authored 121 reports concerning Texas water resources, with topics including the Edwards aquifer, floods, droughts, rural and urban hydrology, and water quality of surface and ground water.

Since his retirement from the USGS he has been an Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College, and has been a self-employed Consulting Hydrologist.  He is Certified and Registered as a Professional Hydrologist with the American Institute of Hydrology.



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