DROUGHT SITUATION IN TEXAS
Starting in 2011, Texas has broken records when it comes to drought with 2011 being the single worst single year drought on record to 2012 being the warmest year. It has been during this time that the State Drought Preparedness Council (DPC), the state’s coordinating body of all state drought activities, has taken the lead in the development of new processes, technology and forecasting to help local jurisdictions mitigate drought’s drastic effects.
With the effects of 2011 still being felt and the start 2012 not looking any better the DPC knew that it had to take a different approach in how information was passed to local jurisdictions and their elected officials. In the past, the council relied on monthly situational reports to disseminate information regarding Texas agriculture production, effects on wildlife and water reservoir status but with a drought like Texas had never seen before it knew it had to try something different.
In March of 2012, the DPC decided to hold a workshop in west Texas to include local emergency managers and elected officials, the National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss how Texas should respond to the drought. Attendees were driven to various lakes in the area to see firsthand how such vast areas of water had dwindled down to small ponds. The mayor of a small town just up the road from these lakes spoke on how their citizens cut consumption by up to 80% as they watched their lake levels drop and how their citizens pulled together to lay their own pipeline when financial means were not an option. Expectations of what agencies could bring to entities such as this small town were discussed and the results set the tone for the next year as the council prepared to take what was learned and present across the state
Managing preexisting expectations in the beginning was difficult. Most local jurisdictions dealing with the State know of the resources that it can provide through emergency activations and declarations and while the drought is an emergency it is a slow moving one. Many funds, grants and financial assistance that usually come through disaster declarations do not apply. Dealing with drought is more of a mitigation process. Drought is seen as somewhat preventable given enough time but, as we found out with many Texas cities, time has a way of creeping up.
The Emergency Drinking Water Taskforce (EDWTF) was created under the revised Annex A to the State of Texas Drought Annex as a means to bridge the gap between cities looking for support to respond to imminent threats to water supply. The EDWTF is a group of representatives of TDEM, TCEQ, TWDB and TDA who meet at least on a weekly basis to support local water systems in identifying and obtaining a new water supply once it notifies the council or TCEQ that it will exhaust its supply of potable drinking water in 180 days or less. The Task Force, chaired by TDEM, with operational oversight given to the TCEQ, is responsible for coordinating information and activities related to public water systems and water rights considerations. These functions are:
The task force is one of the best tools the DPC has to offer the state of Texas. It is through them that the council sees a clearer picture of the needs across the state and intern we are able to go where it is needed the most. Some of the workshops highlights are:
The State of Texas is now enduring its third consecutive drought year. Meteorologists agree that the situation will only get worse before it gets better. The Drought Preparedness Council will remain active and proactive to help but, as the council has come to learn, it is up to the citizens of the this great state to begin to do their part in the conservation and preservation of Texas’s most precious resource.
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