Reservoir levels set to reach all-time lows
A summer shower moves across the dry lakebed of O.C. Fisher Reservoir near San Angelo in September 2012. Though reservoir levels recovered somewhat during the winter and spring of 2013, they are currently poised to set all-time record lows across the state, according to the state climatologist.
COLLEGE STATION -- Within two weeks, reservoir water levels could reach an all-time low throughout the state, according to Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist in College Station.
Though drought conditions prevail, it hasn’t been “all that bad” for much of the state compared to previous drought years, Nielsen-Gammon said. The Panhandle had a fairly wet summer, as did parts of far West Texas. There was also some useful rain in the West Central areas of the state, and much of the Coastal Bend and the Coastal Plains did pretty well too.
However, some areas, most notably the northeastern quarter of the state, have been unusually dry, he said.
“But of course, even normal rainfall isn’t enough to fill reservoirs in the summertime,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “If they keep going down at the present rate, it will only take about two more weeks before they will set an all-time record for the difference between how much water they were designed to hold and how much they water they actually have in them. We continue to set records levels for this time of year, but this will be an all-time record low.”
Climate models predicted a tropical storm developing in the western Gulf of Mexico about Sept. 13-14, according to Nielsen-Gammon.
“We don’t know how strongly it will evolve or what course it will take, but that could drastically affect rainfall in South and South Central Texas,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t really develop, it could help pipe in a lot of tropical moisture and possibly seriously improve reservoir levels, especially along the Rio Grande.”
It’s rare to have tropical storms after September, but we can still get heavy rains throughout October, he said. Otherwise, the long-range forecasts don’t have much “special” happening this winter.
“We’re forecasting neutral conditions in the tropical Pacific -- no El Niño or La Niña -- and that means nothing is pointing us to either a very dry winter or wet winter,” he said. “So at this point, it could be a winter like we’ve been having for the past couple of years -- not enough rain to end the drought, but things not getting worse either.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region received scattered showers, with some areas getting 1.5 inches and others getting none. The light rains maintained soil-moisture levels, but were not enough to prevent a decrease in overall available grazing in pastures and rangeland. Surface and groundwater supplies remained significantly low. The cotton harvest began with good yields reported. Sesame was in full bloom. Fall corn began to tassel and looked good. Overall, livestock remained in fair condition.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported parts of the region received scattered showers, with some damage reported from high winds. The corn harvest was complete, and the first rice harvest was almost done. Some rice farmers flooded fields for a ratoon crop, but doing so was rare due to water restrictions. Lake levels continued to drop. The cotton harvest was ongoing. Soybeans yields were decent. Preliminary yield reports for sesame were 200 to 500 pounds per acre, but many better fields were yet to be harvested. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed to cattle, and were expected to continue culling herds this fall. Harvesting of hay continued, but yields were very low. Grasshoppers remained plentiful. Ponds were low or dry in most areas. Pecan yields were expected to be low in most areas.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported soil-moisture conditions varied throughout the region. Many counties reported short to very short soil-moisture levels, but a few had adequate levels due to frequent spotty showers, such as Atascosa and Maverick counties. In Atascosa County, the cotton harvest was under way, and peanut producers continued irrigating the crop, which was setting pods.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.