Weekend’s rain not enough to curb Austin’s drought problems

Given the weekend’s downpour, many may think that the drought is broken, or nearly broken. However, this simply is not the case.

Lake Travis did rise two feet and is expected to rise another foot as water flows in from the Pedernales River and surrounding areas. However, the lake is only 33 percent full. Statewide the reservoirs are 59.4 percent full, and the record low was 58.4 percent on Sept. 19. 

The heaviest part of the storm fell on Barton Creek, which flows into Lady Bird Lake—just downstream of the Highland Lakes. While this water will contribute to the heath of the Colorado River flowing into Matagorda Bay, the needs of the lakes were not met by the lighter rain that fell in that watershed.

This drought started in 2011, which was a rough year for Texas, and despite recent rain the ecosystem has yet to recover. 

The difference between this drought and previous ones is that in general it is more severe, but also Texas is dealing with unprecedented population growth.

Stakeholders are working desperately to make a safe habitat for many of Texas’ precious critters—including humans. With the population growing as it is, Texans need to make major changes in conservation efforts even without the drought. Texas State climatologist Nielsen-Gammon predicts the drought could last anywhere between one and 15 years.

The fires in Bastrop set the tone for how many Texans view the dangers of drought. In reality, there are more damages not found in the mainstream media.

“Reduced freshwater inflows to our bays and estuaries, altered patterns of migratory birds and the economic impacts associated with reduced water oriented recreation are all consequences, of drought,” aquatic scientist at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Dakus Geeslin said. 

If Texas is to endure 15 more years, all of these issues will compound over time, according to Geesin.  

The amount of water on earth is finite, so conservation is key to being able to provide a growing population. However, many Texans do not realize the gravity of the problem.

“So long as we have exemptions for industry, people won’t care. If the cost of water goes up, the price of production will go up, and the consumers will take notice and make a change,” senior Octavio Sanchez said.

Cindy Loeffler, water resources Branch Chief of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, encourages students to, “be informed, know where your water comes from, conserve. It [conservation] is the cheapest, most environmentally sensitive strategy going forward.” 

Both Geeslin and Loeffler encourage young people to take part in the democratic process. On Nov. 5, Texas voters go to the polls. Proposition 6 asks Texans to approve a removal of $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to implement the State Water Plan, which works to guarantee 50 years of adequate water supply in Texas.