Drought in Texas

Knox County, 2011 Drought Photo courtesy of Earl Nottingham

Knox County, 2011 Drought
Photo courtesy of Earl Nottingham, TPWD

Droughts are, and will continue to be, a fact of life in Texas. A drought occurs when there is a lack of adequate precipitation over an extended period of time. Some part of the state is likely to be in a year-long drought once every three years.

Visit the National Drought Mitigation Center’s U.S. Drought Monitor to find out if your region of the state is currently in drought.

The drought of 2011 was the driest and warmest year ever recorded since the State began keeping weather records in the 1890s. During 2011, the average rainfall across Texas was 14.89 inches, down from a normal average of 27.78 inches, and average temperatures in some areas approached 10 degrees above normal.

The drought of the 1950s is still considered the worse multi-year drought in recorded history. However, tree-ring data indicate that many regions of Texas have experienced several droughts of greater duration and intensity than during the 1950s.

Bastrop Fire, 2011 Drought Photo courtesy of Chase Foundation

Bastrop Fire, 2011 Drought
Photo courtesy of Chase Foundation, TPWD

During a drought, not as much rainfall fills our rivers and reservoirs or recharges our aquifers. This lack of rainfall, combined with extreme heat, has devastating impacts on our state, causing drinking water shortages, severe wildfires, loss of life and property, and other environmental and economic damages. With less water available for human use during drought, it is important to prioritize our essential water use and reduce non-essential uses, such as frequent lawn watering.

Drought Contingency Planning

Water utilities across the state prepare for droughts by developing tactical plans, called drought contingency plans, to reduce peak demands and extend water supplies during a drought.

Get Involved

Learn how you can help at home, in your community and at the state level to improve the way Texas responds to drought.

Learning from the Current Drought

For many municipalities and water suppliers, the severe drought conditions encountered in 2011 highlighted the inadequacy of existing drought management policies and the need to significantly improve response strategies before the next inevitable drought.

Protecting Rivers During Drought

Water supply projects such as dams, pipelines and pumps that are over-sized to meet peak demand, which could be significantly reduced during drought, negatively impact the health of our rivers, bays, fish and wildlife.

Saving Money and Water During Drought

While droughts can be economically damaging for a region, particularly in agricultural areas, effective drought response planning can help a region prepare for droughts and minimize a drought's economic impact.

State Water Planning and Drought

With the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 1997 and Senate Bill 2 in 2001, the Texas Legislature called for drought response to be an essential part of water planning in Texas.

Useful Links and Resources

Useful links to additional information on drought and drought response planning.

Water Conservation or Drought Response?

The difference between water conservation and drought response is that water conservation is an on-going effort, whereas drought response is a short-term response to a water supply shortage.