Apr 3, 2023 - News

Drought persists in Central Texas over winter

Winter 2022-23 precipitation anomalies
Data: NOAA. Map: Axios Visuals

Austin got five inches of rain this past winter — 2.3 inches less than average.

  • That's according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Why it matters: As Central Texas struggles to shake off drought, every inch of rain counts.

  • Already last month, the Lower Colorado River Authority, which oversees the lakes and dams around Austin, has determined that no water will be released in 2023 for downriver rice farmers.
  • And curtailments of water use on lawn watering, car washing, and ornamental fountain filling are on the horizon for city dwellers if the drought persists.

Threat level: Lakes Travis and Buchanan, the major regional reservoirs, are currently at a combined 51% capacity.

  • If they fall below 45%, cities and manufacturers could be asked to cut water use by as much as 20%.
  • Without big rains, LCRA officials estimate that the combined storage of the lakes could drop to that 45% threshold this summer.

What they're saying: "We’re in an extraordinary drought condition," John Hofmann, the LCRA executive vice-president in charge of water, tells Axios.

  • "We have plenty of drinking water, but everyone in our region needs to be mindful of water use. We don’t know when this drought will end, and we all need to do our part to conserve," he said.
  • Much of the western half of the state continues to experience drought conditions, with the driest area centered in the Hill Country, per the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The good news: Forecasters remain optimistic that our nook of Texas will ultimately see a rainier 2023.

  • The federal Climate Prediction Center suggests El Niño — warmer-than-average conditions in the Pacific that have far-reaching consequences for Texas — could take hold in the fall. Some of Central Texas' biggest rain storms have occurred during El Niño cycles.

The bottom line: We need El Niño sooner rather than later.


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