The RGRWA is compiling data on how the ongoing drought is affecting the Rio Grande Valley and information on efforts to assist water users.

Drought News

May 8, 2015: Gov. Abbott renewed the drought emergency proclamation for Texas. It was in effect since July 5, 2011.

February 10, 2014: The last time two key reservoirs that are water lifelines to the Rio Grande Valley were at or above normal levels was in 2010 after Hurricane Alex struck northeastern Mexico. . . .In early February 2013, Falcon Lake was 32.9 percent full. This year the lake has risen by 4.9 percent, and is 37.8 percent full. Amistad Reservoir was 45.3 percent full in early February 2013 and is now 49.3 percent full, a 4 percent gain.

July 12, 2013: Gov. Perry once again renews the drought emergency proclamation for Texas. Texas Tribune publishes Where We Stand: The Texas Drought, andStateImpact Texas warns Texas Drought Forecast to Continue, Perhaps For Years.

June 19, 2013: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry has renewed a drought emergency in more than 200 counties throughout the state, authorizing “all necessary measures” be implemented to aid response efforts. “Prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire across many portions of the state,” the governor’s proclamation said this week. “These drought conditions have reached historic levels and continue to pose an imminent threat to public health, property and the economy.”” Click here to read the full story from CNN; click here to read the full proclamation. In addition, Texas AgriLife Extension reported that “[a] total lack of irrigation water, whether by drought or international politics, would amount to agricultural losses in South Texas of almost $400 million annually and the loss of almost 5,000 jobs.” Read the full story here. On June 20, the South Texas Drought outlook was released.

In early June 2013, the Texas Tribune launched an interactive map of Texas public water systems at risk. In May 2013, KRGV presented a special 4-part video series on drought issues in the Rio Grande Valley, entitled “Running Dry.” Also in May, Gov. Perry renewed the drought proclamation for Texas, “the certification that exceptional drought conditions pose a threat of imminent disaster in a specified number of counties in the State of Texas.” In addition, as of May 16, the City of Lyford was in danger of running out of water in 45 days or less.

Drought Conditions & Water Supplies

Reservoir Beaker Level 120214

As Texas deals with historic levels of drought, much of the region served by the RGRWA is feeling its effects. View the current Texas “Drought Map” here.

Most water used in the region comes from supplies stored in the Amistad-Falcon reservoir system, which is operated on behalf on both U.S. and Mexico water users by the International Boundary and Water Commission.

On July 11, 2015, the U.S. combined ownership at Amistad/Falcon stood at 57.20% of normal conservation capacity, impounding 1,940,029 acre-feet, up from 42.38% (1,437,389 AF) of normal conservation a year ago at this time. Overall the system is holding 54.78 % of normal conservation capacity, impounding 3,244,461 acre-feet with Amistad at 55.19% of conservation capacity, impounding 1,807,883 acre-feet and Falcon at 54.28% of conservation capacity, impounding 1,436,578 acre-feet. Mexico has 51.55% of normal conservation capacity, impounding 1,304,432 acre-feet at Amistad/Falcon. Source: Rio Grande Watermaster

Low reservoir levels are partly due to drought and diminished rainfall. “Manmade drought,” however, is also to blame.

Mexico once again is failing to meet treaty obligations that require it provide a certain volume of inflows from the Rio Conchos into the Rio Grande upstream of the reservoirs. As of early March 2013, Mexico is short some 410,000 acre-feet due in the current five-year cycle that ends October 2015. (This amount is enough to meet the municipal needs of the Valley for two years.) Click here for details on the Mexican water deficit.

Impacts on Regional Water Users

Several irrigation districts in the Valley have notified agricultural producers that water deliveries may be suspended. These include: Cameron County Irrigation District #2, Delta Lake Irrigation District, and Hidalgo and Cameron Counties Irrigation District #9.

Because irrigation systems also deliver most municipal water supplies from the Rio Grande to treatment plants, towns and cities in the region may be affected when irrigation districts can no longer pump. Already, several districts have warned certain municipalities that a lack of “pushwater” (see discussion here) may curtail deliveries.

Municipal water suppliers notified thus far include: Donna, Edcouch, Elsa, La Joya, La Villa, Lyford, McAllen, Mercedes, Raymondville, Rio Hondo, San Benito, Weslaco, Agua Special Utility District, and East Rio Hondo and North Alamo Water Supply Corporations.

As of June 28, 2013, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality classifies Elsa and Raymondville as “Emergency” on its List of Texas PWSs Limiting Water Use to Avoid Shortages, meaning they “could be out of water in 45 days or less.” Lyford is classified “Priority,” defined as “could be of out water in 90 days or less.” East Rio Hondo WSC is listed as a “Concern,” meaning it “could be out of water in 180 days or less.” Other municipal water suppliers in the region are listed under the “Watch” category, defined as “water shortage possible.” Click here for an interactive map of Texas public water systems at risk.

Click here for TCEQ’s Map of Water Systems under Water-Use Restriction.

Tools & Strategies

TCEQ Resources for Public Water Systems (PWS)

PWS Drought Reporting Form
Drought Contingency Plans
Educational Materials Available to Water Systems
Video of Emergency Planning Workshop Presentation
Emergency Planning Workshops for Public Utility Operators
Questions from the TCEQ’s Workshops on Drought Emergency Planning: Answers to Help Drinking-Water Systems Prepare for Emergencies
Emergency and Temporary Use of Wells for Public Water Supplies
Emergency Interconnection Procedure for Public Water Systems
List of Licensed Water Haulers
Requests for Drinking Water Assistance from Local Governments
Resources for Texas Water and Wastewater Utilities
Emergency Drinking Water Annex A of the Drought Preparedness Plan

Resources for Irrigation Districts and Agricultural Producers

Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service

Texas Project for Ag Water Efficiency

TCEQ Rio Grande Watermaster

Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB)

Texas Water Development Board

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service