Protecting Rivers During Drought

Water supply projects such as dams, pipelines and pumps that are built to meet peak demand during summer months often negatively impact the health of our rivers, bays, fish and wildlife. That is particularly true because demands for outdoor water use generally increase during drought periods. Responsible drought management practices can help ensure that our essential water needs will be met, even during the driest times, while minimizing the need for new environmentally damaging infrastructure projects. Read more about the environmental impact of water infrastructure projects.

Building new reservoirs to supply water to meet peak demands during drought is also a poor use of limited water resources. Reservoirs result in greatly increased levels of evaporation of water for our rivers. For example, during 2011, water evaporation from the LCRA’s Highland Lakes was over 190,000 acre-feet. These evaporative losses were close to twice the amount of water the City of Austin used during that year (107,000 acre-feet).

Increased diversions of water from rivers and streams during drought periods directly reduce river and stream flows at times when flows are already low and fish and wildlife area at risk.

Reducing water demands during drought requires less water to be stored behind reservoirs or diverted from streams and rivers, allowing potentially more water to flow downriver and into our bays during these critical dry periods. These limited water resources are essential for aquatic species and for the economic activities, such as the seafood industry, recreational fishing, and nature tourism, that depend on these species.

Minnow rescue on Brazos River during 2011 drought. Photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

Extremely low flows in the Brazos River during 2011 drought.
Photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

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.

Drought in Texas

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.

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.

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.