What is in this article?:
- Experts say spring rains have helped, but more is needed
- Temporary relief
- Spring rains in extreme South Texas have helped keep reservoir levels behind Amistad and Falcon dams from dropping.
- Rains complement irrigation.
- The wet spring weather pattern this year started in February.
Spring rains have reduced water releases from Falcon and Amistad dams into the Rio Grande (shown here near Mission) for cropland irrigation.
“The rains have provided a temporary relief, but long term, we’re just not there yet,” he said. “In fact, if we continue to have hot and dusty days, we’re in trouble.”
The wet spring weather pattern this year started in February, Goldsmith said, and even included a rare, severe hailstorm in McAllen that could eventually amount to damages of $100 million, according to the weather service website.
“The jet stream allowed energy to build up in February and that started things off. It gave us rains that made for a pretty spring; it gave a huge boost to plants and trees,” he said.
Sporadic rainfall through most of May in the Falcon and Amistad watershed, in both the U.S. and Mexico, helped growers and reservoir levels, according to Erasmo Yarrito Jr., Rio Grande watermaster with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“The rains didn’t raise reservoir levels, but they kept them from dropping,” he said. “Farmers were able to put off irrigating. We had lots of water-request cancellations at a time when we would normally be releasing huge amounts of water.”
Instead of releasing 100 cubic meters of water per second, Yarrito said releases have dropped to half that amount.
“Combined capacity of both reservoirs is at 56.86 percent, about normal for this time of year,” he said. “And even if we don’t get rainfall in the Mexican watershed, our reserves will carry us through this year and next year.”
Erasmo Valdez, a long-time corn and grain sorghum farmer in the mid-Valley area, said he is especially thankful for the rains that helped him save time and money.
“The rains bought me 14 or 15 days and helped me eliminate one irrigation, so far,” he said. “Last year at this time I had already irrigated four times and was thinking of the fifth because it was so hot and dry. I’m happy this year because I’ve only had to irrigate three times. That saves money and the rains help wash and re-energize the crops.”
What will future rainfall be? Goldsmith said he doesn’t have a crystal ball, but he knows what the area needs.
“What we need is what we call ‘efficient’ rains, a series of easterly waves of rain events from the tropics and sub-tropics,” he said. “Not more hail or a hurricane, which bring other hazards, but rather a pattern where we have rains in the morning, then again in the afternoon each day for about a week. Then a week of no rain, followed by more rain the following week. Periodic rains will get us out of this drought.”
According to the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website (http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/), most of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is considered to be in a moderate drought. Only Starr County is listed as abnormally dry.
As to whether the weather “puzzle pieces” will fall into place to end the drought, Goldsmith said: “I can’t predict that. Are we now going back to the hot and dry conditions of last year and 2009? We just don’t know yet.”