Aug 25, 2023 - News

Drought worsens in Houston

Central and far East Texas are taking the brunt of the drought. Map: U.S. Drought Monitor

Don't say we didn't warn you. Houston will require residents to rein in water usage starting Sunday.

Driving the news: The city announced Wednesday that it will enter Stage 2 of its drought contingency plan for the first time since 2011.

How it works: Enforcement relies on residents to file 311 complaints to alert the city of any potential violations, per Houston Public Works spokesperson Erin Jones.

  • The city will issue up to three warnings before issuing citations to violators, Jones said.

Why it matters: The new restrictions come as Houston and much of the state bear the brunt of the worsening drought.

  • Climate change is increasing the odds and severity of droughts. They tend to be hotter as the climate warms, which increases evaporation and worsens drought severity.

Flashback: Houston had been under Stage 1 of its drought contingency plan since June 2022, which called for voluntary water restrictions.

Details: All of Harris County is under extreme drought conditions, per the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, released Thursday.

  • Last week, only 40% of Harris County was that bad.
  • Plus, areas east of Houston, including the Golden Triangle, are experiencing exceptional drought, the most elevated level.

Zoom out: More than three-quarters of the state is in drought.

  • Only the far northern Panhandle and parts of the Big Bend region are not experiencing dry conditions.

Meanwhile, Houston Public Works continues to repair broken lines and leaks, which are known to spring up in times of extreme heat.

  • The lack of rainfall dries out the region's clay-based soil, making it easier for the ground to shift, which then cracks brittle pipes or disjoins one pipe from another.

What they're saying: "Our goal is to reduce water usage from all customers by 10%," Houston Public Works director Carol Haddock said in a press release. "Our crews are working diligently in conjunction with area contractors to repair water leaks across the city."

What we're watching: Whether the city is able to reach its goal of a 10% reduction in water usage.

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