AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – In its most recent “Water Weekly” report, the Texas Water Development Board not only reported that drought conditions in the Texas Panhandle area remained mostly unchanged from mid-September, but also marked the two-year anniversary of the drought and its stubborn grip on the state.
According to the TWDB report, drought conditions at the end of September in Texas showed improvement in parts of East and Central Texas and worsened in areas of South Texas. Overall, 81% of the state’s surface area was being impacted by drought conditions, a decrease of one percent from the previous week. Drought coverage in the Lone Star State remained at drastically higher levels compared to the 24% of three months ago and the 61% of one year ago.
In the Texas Panhandle, Hardeman County remained under “extreme” drought conditions into the end of September, and Moore County was experiencing the next-highest concentration of “severe” drought conditions.
Otherwise, as noted in the most recent map from the US Drought Monitor, the majority of the region was considered under either “abnormally dry” or “moderate” drought conditions.
As noted by the TWDB, the current drought across Texas began in fall 2021 and covered 97% of the state by July 2022. While the drought saw a significant dip in intensity in June 2023, it ramped up again by September. Although the TWDB said substantial drought relief could be in sight, it isn’t expected until 2024.
The drought conditions across Texas have been an ever-present undercurrent over the last two years amid record-breaking heat, devastating wildfires, and deadly storms that have shaken communities in every area of the state. Even during the weeks over the summer that the Texas Panhandle exchanged tinderbox conditions for widespread flooding, as previously reported on MyHighPlains.com the last years have brought issues of water resource sustainability in Texas to the forefront.
This issue continues alongside the delay of the 2023 Farm Bill, which was supposed to replace the 2018 Farm Bill that expired on Sept. 30. Further, it continues as Texas prepares for its Nov. 7 election, which includes a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would create a water fund to assist with financing critical water projects in the state. The impacts of both of these situations remain to be seen, much like the true end to the current drought itself, but will nonetheless likely have substantial impacts both on how Texas communities are able to respond to drought and drought-related disasters as well as how well they are able to prepare for and deal with those issues in the future.