You won’t enjoy reading most of this post, but I promise some encouraging news at the end, and in subsequent posts.
Almost the entire central and western United States remains in drought:
Late winter snows may help the northern plains somewhat, but it takes a LOT of water to overcome Extreme and Exceptional drought conditions. This one season will not be enough.
The same situation persists in Texas:
More than 99% of Texas is experiencing some level of drought, and about 90% of the state is in Extreme or Exceptional drought. The drought in all of Central Texas is rated Severe or Extreme. Travis County and most of the population in the Austin metropolitan area depend on the Lower Colorado River and the Highland Lakes system, where inflows reached incredibly low levels during the worst year so far, 2011:
Yes, you read that correctly: inflows in 2011 were just 45% of the lowest previous year, and barely more than 10% of the long-term average. At the same time, the population boom in the Austin area continues, so the need for water resources is truly dire. For comparison, here is a look at the combined storage in Lakes Buchanan and Travis (the only variable-level lakes in the system):
The last time we saw stored water this low in our reservoirs was in the mid-1960s. According to Wikipedia, here is what has happened in the Austin metro area during that time:
The population of the Austin metropolitan area finished 2012 a little north of 1.8 million, so there is now about 5 times the population as 1965, with the same water supply!
There is hope, though! This year the Texas legislature will finally fund the State Water Plan! More on that shortly in another post.