While rural residents of the Texas coast worry about and respect the potential for major hurricane landfalls each summer, after three straight years of intense water shortages, many are happy to see a tropical storm system barreling out of the Gulf with landfall expected on the upper Mexican coast that could bring beneficial rains to Deep South Texas this weekend and early next week.

After three years of intense drought and hefty crop and cattle declines, South Texas farmers and ranchers from the Lower Rio Grande Valley and up the coast as far as the Coastal Bend are anxious for heavy rains to bring relief to thirsty soils and to help raise dangerously low reservoir levels across the region.

"There is a potential for up to seven inches of rain on the lower coast and 3-5 inches inland across the Valley depending on where the system moves into the Mexican coastline," says Barry Goldsmith, a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Brownsville, Texas, station. "In areas currently saturated and with poor drainage, life and property could be threatened and water levels could reach (up to) 3 feet."

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While Goldsmith admits serious weather poses a risk not only to residents living in low lying areas but also to agricultural operations in South Texas, a series of beneficial rains could go a long way toward replacing soil moisture and recharging low reservoir levels. South Texas suffered serious drought conditions over the last three years and has been stressed by international water treaty issues as well.

State and local officials have complained that Mexico is late meeting its treaty obligation to deliver water to South Texas and say that delay caused serious crop losses and forced culling of cattle herds, creating further hardships related to the extreme dry conditions in recent years.

Earlier this year local irrigation officials, local government and industry leaders, state water representatives and concerned farmers and ranchers gathered in a special meeting to discuss international water treaty issues. While representatives from the U.S. contingent of the International Boundary & Water Commission (IBWC) said negotiations with Mexican officials to release water owed to Texas were ongoing, local farmers and ranchers complained that Mexico was once again waiting to release water until tropical weather conditions developed and brought additional rain to the dry Southwest.

"They like to hold onto all the water they currently have in their many reservoirs up the Rio Conchas (river) in case the tropical season fails to replenish water supplies. But if a tropical storm or hurricane comes up out of the Gulf, then they decide to open up their dams and let the water flow down to us. A lot of that water we would have gotten anyway, so we are still coming up short of what they owe us each year," said Hidalgo County Agent Brad Cowan earlier this year.