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Author: Emily Seldomridge

The best time to plan for drought is when we aren’t in one

Drought is nothing new to Texans; it is frequent and inevitable. Across much of Texas the end of the current drought is being declared—soil moisture levels are nearing normal and ephemeral rivers are flowing again—while other portions of the state are already on the verge of slipping back into drought conditions despite recent rains. This reprieve from drought is a most welcome relief, yet we can be certain there is another drought around the corner.Drought, unlike a hurricane or flood, doesn’t have a distinct beginning or end. Drought is a creeping phenomenon that is, in the most basic terms, defined by the lack of precipitation. However, some municipalities define drought by water treatment...

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Looking into the crystal ball: 2014-15 Galveston Bay oyster season

Texas’ commercial oyster season began November 1, 2014 and runs until April 30, 2015. Last year’s harvest was marked by drought, an oil spill, and a toxic algal bloom. Historically, Galveston Bay oysters accounted for about 72% of Texas total harvest by weight; however, the last 3 seasons dropped to 42%. Given these challenges, will the 2014-2015 harvests improve? There is no easy answer, but let’s take a look at what we know.The Basics on OystersThe Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is native to Galveston Bay. Oyster reefs were once prevalent throughout Galveston Bay, but the range has greatly declined.  Among the suite of factors behind this demise are physical factors like oyster shell...

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Limits to outdoor watering become a permanent part of the Texas landscape

As Smart Irrigation Month ends and summer temperatures continue to rise, outdoor irrigation continues to be limited across much of Texas. Some outdoor irrigation restrictions are always in effect through water conservation policies, whereas others are temporarily triggered as a result of drought response. Water conservation strategies reduce the consumption, loss, or waste of water at all times, whereas drought response is triggered during dry periods to ensure critical water needs are met.Cities across Texas have adopted water conservation policies that limit outdoor lawn irrigation as a way to reduce water waste and stretch existing water supplies. The City of Fort Worth is among the most recent to adopt no more than twice per...

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Texas City Y Oil Spill – A reminder of bay ecosystem vulnerability

On March 22, 2014 near the Texas City Dike in Galveston Bay, a cargo ship, the Summer Wind, collided with a barge towed by the Miss Susan releasing 168,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The spill occurred at the point where ships can turn west to enter the Port of Texas City or continue through the Ship Channel, thus named the Texas City “Y” Oil Spill. Although the cleanup response to the spill was quick, the spill came with poor timing and the potential for devastating effects to the health of Galveston Bay.Every spring, tens of thousands of shorebirds begin migrations through the Galveston Bay area and often stop at the Bolivar Flats...

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