January 31, 2012

Drought forces water trucking in Texas

Yes a community water well has fallen so low that its supplier the Lower Colorado River Authority, is having to truck water to Spicewood Beach. More interestingly yet, the unincorporated community of Spicewood Beach isn't out in the semidesert or desert of Far West Texas. It's in the Hill Country, less than 35 miles from Austin. And, as the LCRA name should indicate, it's near a decent-sized river.

How much this will parlay into ongoing drought in the state is unknown, as is how much of this is semi-natural variation in Texas (plus La Niña) and how much is related to anthropogenic change.

But, it should remind Texans that:
1. It's semi-insane to farm irrigated rice on a river that starts in a semidesert and runs through major metropolitan areas
2. The last serious drought in the state was when it had one-third the population it does now, at best, and less demand for water for industrial uses;
3. That, as with changing USDA planting maps, climate change is here in some way. How long it takes deniers to accept it is key; until then, to riff on a state slogan, "They're messing with Texas."

And, since La Niña is expected to stay around until at least mid-April, this isn't going away. Last week's rain primarily benefited the Red River and the southeast. All of the state west of I-35 is still hurting. And will continue to do so, it seems.

That said, contra James Hansen, from whom I find a lot of good, to put a blanket label of global warming over the current Texas drought is both unhelpful and not fully scientific. There's no reason La Niña can't be the primary cause, but one exacerbated by global warming. And, as for his claim it couldn't have occurred without global warming, I'm not absolutely saying he's wrong, but I am saying he has VERY little evidentiary basis for such a claim. As the link notes, La Niña was behind the state's 1950s drought.

Meanwhile, speaking of winger-type conservatives, State Sen. Troy Fraser has now sent a letter to LCRA asking questions that have been at least 50 percent answered.

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