Two consecutive summers of brutal heat and drought have left some parts of Texas with notably low water supplies going into 2024. A wet year or a well-placed hurricane could quickly pull these regions back from the brink. But winter rains have disappointed so far. Recent downpours are the first in weeks for parts of the state and they won’t hit the watersheds that need them most.
Looking ahead, forecasters increasingly expect another scorching summer here this year.
The Rio Grande hasn’t flowed consistently into the Gulf of Mexico since the early 2000s. On the Colorado River, which runs through Austin, authorities have kept water releases to the coastal wetlands at a bare minimum in recent years. Jennifer Walker, director of the National Wildlife Foundation’s Texas Coast and Water Program, called it “critical life support.”
“Water to meet environmental needs is frequently the first to be negotiated away,” Walker said. “Our bays and estuaries are a hugely important part of Texas and they’re not something that would be easy to go back and fix.”