DroughtMitigation in Texas
Droughtoccurs naturally and its onset is usually slow. It can evolve formonths or years. Drought periods have significant agricultural,economic, health, social and environmental consequences. The effectdrought has on a region varies depending on vulnerability. In Texasfor instance, the rural community is largely dependent on agricultureand ranching that need a constant supply of water. As of 2013,analysts described Austin as the United States’ fastest growingmetropolis. This then translates to the need for more water forexpansion. In the long run failure to put adequate measures in placeto reduce impacts of the drought will result in a State that can nolonger live to its full potential. The effects of drought can behandled through mitigation and preparedness. This essay will focus onways that the Texas State can do in order to mitigate futuredroughts.
Majorityof the regions in Texas are presently experiencing drought that begantowards the end of 2010. John-Nielsen Gammon the state’sClimatologist has cautioned that the State could be experiencing theworst drought ever recorded. The driest year ever for the state was2011, with rainfall of about 14 inches on average. The year alsoexperienced low rainfall between March and May as well as betweenJune and August. The temperatures in the summer were very high andthis is bound to increase evaporation thereafter lowering the levelsof lakes and rivers. In the spring and winter of 2012, Texasexperienced a short respite of rain but by fall dry conditionsreturned to most of the state. A constant era of rainfall in 2013brought about a decrease in the percentage of areas experiencingdrought. This nevertheless, did not stop the drought. Statisticsreleased in June 2014 show that 70% of the State still face droughtand 21% being in the nastiest phases of drought. The reservoirs inTexas are 67% full. Without proper structures in place the droughtcould heavily affected the State’s economy.
Themajor cause of the severe dryness experienced in 2011 was La Nina. LaNina is basically a pattern of weather whereby surface temperaturesin the Pacific tend to be cooler. This consequently creates warmer,drier weather in the Southern parts of the US. El Nino on the otherhand typically affects a region directly opposite. La Nina tends tocontinue for a year or at times longer. It is however, important tonote that drought is a common occurrence in Texas. During the 1950sfor instance, a dry spell of seven years was experienced. It struckextremely hard destroying almost 100,000 ranches and farms. Thedrought was so earth-shattering that it brought about the modernepoch of water conservation in Texas. Water planning was pushed anotch higher and the legislature came up with the Texas WaterDevelopment Board (TWDB) as well as Local River agencies that weremandated with the responsibility of constructing 62 new dams as wellas reservoirs in the following two decades. The state has alsoexperienced drought in 1996 that heavily impacted on agriculture andranching, in 1999, 2005 where about 77 percent of cattle hay crop waslost and in 2009 where most of counties in Texas experienced thedeepest phase of drought ever since 2000.
Judgingby statistics and effects of drought, it is imperative for thedifferent stakeholders in the State to come up with solid and viableways of mitigating drought. Drought drains reservoirs, ruins crops,fuels wildfires and immensely strains the electric grid of the state.Consequences of drought are very adverse and can easily paralyze thelives of citizens and even putting the economy at a virtualstandstill. It often develops slowly and it is fairly easy torecognize when it is about to occur.
Properplanning is therefore vital and the basic drought mitigation andpreparedness components are prediction, monitoring, impact assessmentand response. Prediction normally benefits from research studies onclimate which generally use coupled atmosphere/ocean models, snowpacks’ survey, soil moisture, irregular atmosphere and oceancirculation patterns, assimilation of information remotely sensedinto numerical forecast model and knowledge of water stored for stockirrigation and domestic use. Monitoring entails utilizing groundbased data such as weather, crop conditions, water availability aswell as rainfall. Satellite observations in turn complement theinformation collected on the ground. Satellites are essential forwide area coverage. Impact assessment is done depending on land-usetype, existing infrastructure and demographics, perseverance ofstrained conditions, intensity as well as areal degree, and itsimpact on public health, agricultural yield, water quality andquantity, in addition to building subsidence. The last componentresponse and it basically entails improved management of crops andwater, improved community edification and awareness, enhanced droughtevaluation, reduction in the water demand, and finally watermanagement and preservation.
Waterand soil protection plus herd management are methods that the Stateneeds to embrace and improve on to take the edge off future droughts.Conservation practices ensure the minimization of soil structuredisruption, composition as well as natural biodiversity disruptiontherefore reducing soil degradation and erosion, water pollution andsurface runoff. The established norms of water and soil conservationinclude terracing, crop rotation, tillage practices, contoured rowcrops, litter management, reclamation of soil affected by salt, waterdetention and retention structures in addition to shelterbelts andwindbreaks. The conservation of water and soil can be effectivelyrealized through engineering and agronomic. Agronomic methods entailoff-season and deep tillage, contour farming, mulching and offeringvegetative obstructions. These ways are important in the preventionof soil erosion as well as the enhancement of moisture in the soil.Engineering measures on the other hand differ depending on thelocation, sloping, soil type, and intensity and amount of rainfall.If the farmers in rural Texas embrace soil conservation through thevarious tried and tested measures in places like Israel, protectingthe soil will enhance its ability to absorb precipitation and alsoassist them to make use of less water for irrigation since it isadequately absorbed without much of it running off. This also reducesthe pollution of water by the fertilizers and pesticides present inmajority of the farms.
Waterconservation is I think the most important measure that Texas needsto promptly embrace and improve on. Building additional pipelines anddams as well as drilling additional aquifers makes no sense. Thecities are growing drastically and there can never be enough water ifits use is not regulated. There needs to be immediate regulation ofwater uses such as watering yards, swimming pools, patio tables andwashing cars. Xeriscape landscaping needs to be fully implemented soas to reduce the urge to water plants in the outdoors. This kind oflandscaping was essentially designed for areas that are prone todrought. Additionally, appliances that encourage people to preservewater such as shower heads, washing machines and low-flow toilets areimportant for home use. It is very possible to live comfortably withthe available resources if proper conservation measures are put inplace. The public needs to be sensitized and made to realize thedetrimental consequences of drought. Israel exports food yet it is adesert. Why not Texas? The answer is responsible conservation.
Herdmanagement is another important strategy in mitigating drought. Theaspects to be put in consideration here are expected duration ofdrought, current feed and water supplies, financial resources,composition as well as herd’s body condition. Practices in herdmanagement include reduction of the herd, strategically weaningcalves, herd segregation, parasite control, optimizing theutilization of paddocks affected by drought and lastly attention towater supplies that are contaminated. Farm animals are a major sourceof income as well as prestige it is therefore important to find thebest ways to manage them.
Conclusively,seawater desalination, rainwater harvesting and water recycling needto be fully supported and developed in order to build on the excitingwater supplies. Whichever technique is used nonetheless, extensiveassessment of precipitation as well as water usage remain to be thebest ways to prepare for drought, in addition to informing thepopulace on the disaster, and executing conservation strategies.Texas needs to avoid using historical statistics to predict futurenatural disasters. Instead, it is important for the State to focus onthe changing patterns of weather rather than looking at the past.