The “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” map released March 20 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration depicts the wide extent of the persistence of severe drought in the Southwest, from California to Texas, and into Mexico, for March 20 to June 20, conforming to the larger pattern of lessened solar activity. Many Federal, state, and local community proposals are being put forward to speed up authorization and construction for more dams here and there—a nice impulse—to store more water.
But what water do they expect to store there?
It would be a mirage, without an end to Wall Street, and an all-out drive for a crash-productive nuclear power commitment, and for NAWAPA XXI. Make that break with Wall Street, and all kinds of short-term, emergency measures for food and priority water provision become possible.
On March 26, Texas U.S. Senate candidate Kesha Rogers delivered this message to a conference in Mexico City; she and Michael Steger, Congressional candidate in San Francisco, are leading a joint California-Texas campaign to see this through.
The Texas agricultural extension service put out a summary report last week from their West Texas county agents in the Panhandle, South Plains and Rolling Plains, describing the “very difficult” conditions for farming and ranching. In Knox County (east of Lubbock County, and south of the Panhandle), cotton farmers are trying to prepare their planting beds, in between dust storms! Midland and other city centers have turned dark with dust at different times. The March 28 Houston Chronicle and March 31 San Francisco Chronicle ran comparative photos of the 1930s’ and today’s dust storms in the region, under a “Dust Bowl” headline.
Texas state climatologist John Nielson-Gammon put out a statement March 25, warning that Texas farmers and ranchers are running out of things to do to prevent mass soil losses. Dust clouds are rolling in from southeastern Colorado and eastern New Mexico. “So we’re not having a problem with widespread soil loss in Texas so far, but it’s something that could happen if conditions don’t allow for Spring green-up, which they haven’t yet.” Though speaking politely, he warned of water strife. “Reservoir levels are lower this time of year than they have been previously during this drought. If we don’t see Summer months of more than average rainfall, we will likely see conflicts between agricultural and municipal/industrial uses.”
This is underway in the Colorado River (of Texas) basin, in which Austin, the capital is located. The fight is between towns versus rice growers.
Today, new water use restrictions take effect in Mineral Wells—once famous for its water. This is now typical of dozens of towns in Texas.
On March 11, the Texas state authority for water (Commission on Environmental Quality) sent a letter notifying water rights holders (towns, irrigation districts, etc.) that they may have to comply with mandatory adjustments to their rights to water, given that the water isn’t available.
The lake supplying Mineral Wells is only 25% full. The shortage in Lake Palo Pinto affects some 31,000 people. A new dam has been under discussion for years. If it is rushed through, it could be completed in 2020. But Mineral Wells Mayor Mike Allen, who calls the bureaucratic hold-ups “hell,” also adds, “when we get it built, we’ve got to have enough rain to fill it…”