The decomposing carcass of a cow on a barren plain; a sail boat and the dock it is tied to dry rotting in a field where a lake once offered an abundant wellspring of fresh water; a rust-colored, dust covered irrigation pump standing lonely on a parched stretch of desolate land where crops once flourished—these are but a few images of Texas’ terrible drought captured on film and available for viewing this week beneath the Capitol building's gilded dome in Austin.
This testament of photos and the message they carry about the long running drought in Texas opens Monday, Oct. 28, and will remain in place at the Capitol through Friday, Nov. 1, for public viewing. The exhibit is a joint project of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TAD), the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) designed to bring more public awareness to the crippling effects of a drought that has plagued the state for more than two years.
The “What does your Texas drought look like?” photo campaign is a visual illustration of the impacts of the Texas drought from photos submitted by Texans from every corner of the state who captured some of the best images possible of what a drought actually looks like.
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"I guess the impetus here is that even though Texas is still gripped in the long lasting effects of drought it really started back in early 2011 when some of the highest temperatures and worst wildfires and driest conditions ever assailed the state. Things continue to be really bad with most of the reservoirs in the western half of the state still extremely low. The idea was to capture what this drought looks like to help spread awareness of the seriousness and the absolute desolation it has caused to agriculture, wildlife, and human life," said Tom Harvey, branch chief and information officer for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) in Austin.
Harvey said a large segment of the population, like those living in urban areas, really don't know the seriousness of "the drought that plagues us" and by capturing the devastation in photos, the consensus of opinion of the three participating state agencies "is that people may understand the need to conserve our natural resources and just how important the issue of water is to us all."
Worse than Dust Bowl
"We hear a great deal about the Dust Bowl days of the 1900s, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so if we can collect and post photographs submitted by everyday Texans that illustrate the seriousness and terrible damages of this drought, the more folks can understand we are living in a historical moment and one that every Texan should address," he added.
Since early Aug. the agencies have been encouraging Texas residents and landowners to submit their best photos that capture the seriousness and devastation caused by the serious drought.
"The response has been very favorable and the result is a series of photos that simply beg to be seen and the general public will have that opportunity this week at the State Capitol in Austin," say TDA officials in Austin.
The agencies decided in addition to making the photos available during the exhibit they would also use social media outlets like Flickr and Instagram to catalog and display the results so that every Texan will have the opportunity to see the photos.
“This current Texas drought, which started in 2010, has proven in many ways to be our worst drought in history. In fact, it has surpassed the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “Every Texan has experienced the drought’s ferocity in different ways and these agencies joined forces to collect and share these stories with other Texans."
At the Texas Water Development Board, we’re well acquainted with the effects of drought on our state,” added Melanie Callahan, who helped launch the photo campaign before retiring as TWDB Executive Administrator in August. “It affected water supplies for cities and agriculture alike, and it can devastate economies and natural resources. This photo campaign is a way for Texans to document how drought affects them personally."
Officials say visitors to the Capitol building can view the photos on exhibit all week during normal operating hours, or they can log into the state's drought photo page to view all the photos online. View photos now.