Texas ranchers, activists & local officials bracing for megadroughts
Published 9:29 am Monday, July 27, 2020
Arthur Uhl III has been ranching for 30 years and routinely has the same lament: “It doesn’t rain enough.”
Uhl, who works on his family’s San Angelo-area ranches, needs the rain to grow the grass that feeds his livestock. But in a region that’s prone to megadroughts, he’s had to make changes for sustainability’s sake.
“We meter all of our groundwater posts, for one thing,” he said. “We’ve enclosed most of our tanks. We use precision irrigation systems. And we reuse water when we can.”
The situation has been tough, but it’s about to get a lot worse — for Uhl and ranchers all across the state. This century, Texas could face the driest conditions it has seen in the last 1,000 years, according to a new study from a team of Texas A&M University and University of Texas at Austin researchers.
The study highlighted a slew of looming problems for the state’s water supply. First, climate change will lead to even more megadroughts. In the latter half of the century, those droughts are likely to be worse than any of those previously on record.
“Our study shows that the drier conditions expected in the latter half of the 21st century could be drier than any of those megadroughts, depending on how you measure dryness,” lead researcher and A&M professor John Nielsen-Gammon wrote in a press release.
Second, the higher temperatures brought about by climate change will lead to more evaporation from the surface lakes that many parts of the state rely on. This problem will be particularly pronounced for Dallas, which relies entirely on surface water for its water supply, the study says.