Tag Archives: Texas drought

Cities’ conundrum: whether to limit water use and cut revenue

Janet Rummel, public relations and communications officer for the North Texas Municipal Water District, has a possible word to the wise to city officials who might be reluctant to enact water-use restrictions in the face of a punishing drought.

If you are concerned about a loss of revenue collected from water use fees, then your reluctance to impose water conservation measures carries even greater risk.

You will run out of water, Rummel warned in remarks to the Rotary Club of Fairview.

Much of the state remains caught in drought conditions. The Texas Panhandle, where my wife and I lived until this past May, went through an entire winter with any measurable precipitation. No snow. No rain. Nothing!

North Texas didn’t fare much better than the Panhandle, as I have learned.

So, cities that are pondering whether to impose restrictions on water use face the mother of conundrums: Do they interfere with their revenue stream, depriving their municipal coffers of money used to fund various public services?

The NTMWD, based in Wylie, serves about a dozen communities north and east of Dallas. Rummel talked about the array of measures that the district has taken to improve the quality of water; it also is planning to spend a significant amount of money to improve the delivering of water.

From my standpoint, a city that faces the prospect of running dry — of losing its water supply — has no choice whatsoever than to impose limits, even if it chokes off the revenue it uses to pay for the myriad municipal services it provides. Moreover, I am amazed that city officials would be so reluctant to take a proactive stance that conserves this priceless natural resource.

And yet, according to Janet Rummel, cities are wringing their hands over such a decision. I find the quandary a non-starter.

Drought now in ‘extreme’ mode; it’s time for prayer

Take a good, long look at this map. It comes from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

That red dot in the middle of the Panhandle surrounds Amarillo, dear reader. The red means “extreme” drought conditions. The orange around it denotes slightly less severe drought conditions.

Do you remember what we were saying in the Panhandle about a year ago? We were being deluged by heavy rain. It was pouring so much that many experts — including those at Texas A&M — were holding out hope that we could break the drought that had strangled us for far too long.

A year, as they say, is a lifetime. It’s true in politics. It’s also true as it regards our weather.

Roughly two-thirds of Texas is under a “low” drought designation. Good for them. Bad for the Panhandle as well as for the Trans-Pecos region, which you’ll notice is also shaded in the red “extreme” drought designation.

What’s the message?

We need to take great care of the water we have. We need to protect it as the treasure we all know it to be.

Oh, and since Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, it wouldn’t hurt to send a word up to the Almighty to bring us some more rain.

Always time to thank first responders

Not quite five years ago I posted an item on High Plains Blogger that thanked the first responders who helped Amarillo cope with a massive snow storm.

This year, we haven’t been through that particular form of discomfort. Our first responders haven’t been pulling motorists out of snow drifts, or worked day and night to restore electrical power.

Others, though, have been busy fighting grassfires that erupt in the wind and bone-dry conditions that have signaled the return of severe drought conditions to the Texas Panhandle.

A special word of thanks goes out today

I’ve noted before in this venue about how we should always appreciate the work of those who answer the call when times get tough.

The Texas Gulf Coast has been through an epic deluge created by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. The 2017 hurricane season also brought destruction and misery to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. California residents — from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara — have been victimized by raging flames. Americans throughout the Upper Midwest to the East Coast this winter have been battling unspeakable cold, wind, snow and sleet. So has the Deep South, which has seen record cold.

They, too, depend on those first responders to lend aid, comfort and support.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate all the hard work that goes into their protection.

This is my way of offering yet another word of thanks to the men and women who sign on to rush toward hazard — even danger — on our behalf.

I am grateful to have been spared the monstrous snow event that we’ve witnessed during our 23 years on the Texas High Plains. Yes, I want some moisture to fall from the sky — just not in the amount that poured forth in February 2013.

Our firefighters, police officers, utility crews, emergency medical personnel deserve our thanks always. We need not wait for disaster to visit for us to express appreciation for all that they do.

MPEV job faces tight deadline

They’re supposed to start rolling the heavy equipment soon onto the site of Amarillo’s next big project.

The contractor will bring in the front-end loaders, the backhoes, the dump trucks … all of it.

Then they’ll get to work on the multipurpose event venue, which celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking this week on the now-vacant lot across the street from City Hall.

Once they get started on the job, they’re going to face some immediate pressure. They’ve got to get the job done in about a year.

You see, they’re going to welcome a minor-league baseball team to Amarillo. The plan is to toss out the first pitch for the start of a AA season that begins in April 2019.

The MPEV will cost about $45 million. It will be paid with hotel occupancy tax and lease money provided by the Elmore Group, owners of the team that is relocating here from San Antonio.

I remain confident they’ll get the job done. My confidence, though, must carry a caveat.

It’s the weather, man.

We’re in a prolonged dry spell in the Texas Panhandle. Not only have not had any snow this winter, we haven’t had any measurable precipitation of any kind.

Can we depend on the weather cooperating with us? Hah! Not a chance, dude! As the saying goes: If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes …

The weather is likely to become a major determinant on whether the MPEV gets built on time.

I don’t intend to wish bad things with this blog post. I merely intend to forewarn us all that the weather quite possibly can toss a major roadblock in front of the construction crews that will have little room for error — manmade or nature made — as they proceed to get this first-class venue built.

Let’s remember, too, that even though this winter has been bone-dry — so far! — we cannot guarantee what the next winter will bring to the High Plains of Texas.

And, oh yes, we have the unpredictable and occasionally explosive spring season awaiting us just ahead.

Time won’t wait for the work to get done.

Here’s hoping for the very best.

Remember when Texas was awash in water?

Mother Nature is so darn fickle.

It was just a year ago when Texas was in the midst of a drenching. Rain soaked the landscape from the Panhandle to the Rolling Plains. The snowfall early in 2017 was welcome, too. The first half of the year brought ample moisture, pleasing our farmers and ranchers to no end.

Then came Hurricane Harvey’s one-two punch along the coast; it arrived as a hurricane and pounded the Coastal Bend with storm surge and heavy wind and returned a few days later as a tropical storm and inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle under 50 inches of rain.

The Texas drought was over! Or so the National Weather Service proclaimed.

Hold on a minute. What happened?

It stopped raining in the Panhandle. Around 40 percent of the state is undergoing moderate to severe drought. The Panhandle has been dry for 107 straight days and is approaching an all-time dryness record, which was set in — gulp! — 1902.

As the Texas Tribune reports: The Texas Panhandle has become ground zero in a drought that has crept into much of the state just five months after Hurricane Harvey — including areas that suffered massive flooding during the storm.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry said it would be helpful if Texans would pray for rain. The 2011 drought was a punishing event and the governor sought to look toward the heavens for relief.

It came eventually. Did the prayer help? It’s equally tough to prove or deny categorically. We are left, then, only to believe.

With that, perhaps it’s time we sought help once again from the Almighty.

If you have to … do it, just don’t tell me


WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Drinking potty water isn’t exactly to my liking.

But that’s what they’re doing in this Wichita County community. They’re processing waste water and turning it into potable water … the stuff you can swill with allegedly no discernible after taste.

The officials in Wichita Falls swear by what they’re doing.

For one thing, it is reducing by a considerable amount the volume of fresh water the city’s 100,000 or so residents are consuming.

The city had to do it back when so much of Texas was enduring the punishing drought. They developed technology to turn — pardon the intentional pun — crappy water into fresh drinking water. It’s my understanding that the locals aren’t complaining about it.

Given that Wichita Falls has a limited supply of drinking water — with it all coming from surface-water reservoirs — the city felt it had no choice but to find a way to convert the waste water into the drinkable liquid.

When I first got wind of this initiative, I approached then-Amarillo City Manager Jarret Atkinson — a well-known expert on water development and conservation — and said the following:

If you have to develop this kind of technology for Amarillo, fine! Go for it! Just don’t tell me.

Did prayer bring the water back to the Panhandle?

lake levels

Let’s flash back to a time just before the 2012 presidential campaign.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination. His state was being throttled by a killer drought.

What did he do? He called for Texans to pray. The reaction by the media and many others outside of Texas was quite predictable. Perry drew criticism, even outright scorn. It was a simplistic tactic he sought to employ, critics said.

Four years later, consider this: Texas is no longer in a drought.

Hmmm. How could that’ve happened? Was it, um, prayer — maybe — that did it? Who can say “no” categorically?

Consider the levels at Lake Meredith. The Panhandle’s largest manmade reservoir is filling back up. Last time I noticed, I saw that the lake was at 64 feet. What was it about the time Gov. Perry called for prayer? I believe it was around 26 feet.

There’s more to report. Kent Satterwhite, head of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, says the quality of Lake Meredith water has improved while the lake levels have increased. Indeed, the levels have improved so dramatically that CRMWA has resumed pumping water to its 11 member communities, including Amarillo.

Look, I’m not going to discount actual scientific factors that have contributed to the increase in moisture in this part of the world. Pacific Ocean currents are helping spur more storms. It’s that El Nino effect, right?

However, neither am I going to discount a more spiritual cause for the turn of events.

I’ve never been able to prove or disprove the impact of a simple act of prayer. I am left to rely on faith, which doesn’t require anyone to prove anything.

Whatever the cause of the return of Lake Meredith’s priceless resource, I’m good with it.

El Nino gets a new name

Some weather experts are calling the current version of El Nino “Godzilla.”

It’s meant to suggest that the severity of the weather that could be coming to the Pacific Coast is monumental, historic, unprecedented. El Nino is the name the National Weather Service gives to the ocean currents that deliver stormier-than-normal weather patterns. The opposite of El Nino is La Nina, which has been blamed in large part for the drought that has ravaged the West Coast.


Many millions of Californians are hoping El Nino takes on Godzilla-like traits, if they don’t live on or within spitting distance of the beach. They need the moisture out there.

I won’t get into the climate change debate with this post, but there does seem to be some significant change in the weather occurring in the Pacific Ocean. And, oh by the way, it’s having an impact on us way inland, many miles away.

We’ve had a very wet spring and first half of the summer on the Texas Tundra. But those of you who live there know that already.

If we’re going to have a Godzilla-like El Nino current for the rest of this year and perhaps well into the next one, then we’re going to see some tremendous benefit from this change in our climate.

The weather that moves in off the mountains to our west has been bringing a lot of rain over the course of the past few months.

We’ll take it. Anytime.

Welcome to the High Plains, Godzilla.

Texas drought is over? Really?


Usually, I am likely to accept the word of experts when they proclaim something about which they’ve acquired lots of knowledge.

My instinct is being tested, though, just a tad by a report from the U.S. Drought Monitor’s office.

It says Texas’s drought is over. Finished. Kaput. Drowned out.


Hey, I know we’ve had a lot of rain. The Texas Tundra — aka the Panhandle — has been blessed beyond measure by abundant rain this spring and well into the summer.

We’re barely halfway through the year and we’ve already surpassed by a significant margin the region’s annual average precipitation amount. More rain is sure to come. Late in the year, we can expect snow.

But the Drought Monitor says the drought is over.

Our playas are full. Our reservoirs are filling up. Lake Meredith, the region’s primary surface water source, now is well more than 50 feet deep, about double its depth from the worst of the drought in 2013. Water authorities are pumping water out of the lake and supplying it to cities, such as Amarillo.

My wife and I drove to Allen — just north of Dallas — this past weekend and were blown away by the vast expanse of green we saw every mile of the way. We had to remind ourselves that this is the middle of July, in Texas, for crying out loud!

Is the drought over? Well, the experts say it is.

I think we’re going to keep acting, though, as if it’s still got its grip on us.

Rain, rain, rain … keep thinking ‘drought’

Even as I write this brief post, let us ponder something that seems nonsensical.

The Texas Panhandle has been drenched — and that’s a relative term — for the year to date. We’ve exceeded our annual precipitation average, and it’s only the eighth day of July. It’s raining again tonight. Hard.

Should we consider the drought to be over? You’re welcome to do so, if you wish. We intend at our house to continue operating as if we’re in a drought.

We won’t water the lawn, which of course is quite obvious, given that we’ve had plenty of moisture already. We intend to watch our indoor water consumption. When it dries out, we’ll keep our lawn-watering to a minimum.

We only average about 20 inches of rain per year on what I call the Texas Tundra. We’ve reached that total already in 2015.

Our playas are full. Lake Meredith’s levels keep rising. Who knows? Perhaps they might even release some water upriver at Ute Lake, allowing it to flow down the Canadian River into Lake Meredith.

Water planners said this all could happen if we kept the faith and were careful with our water resources.

Our water condition is much better than it was just two years ago.

Remember, though: The drought took years to develop and it’ll take years to be abated fully.