Finally, a drought that has tortured Texas farmers and ranchers for almost four years seems to be diminishing, slowly, perhaps, but bit by bit showing signs of moving back to something like normal precipitation.

The latest Texas Drought Report from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) indicates that 58 percent of the state remains in moderate to exceptional drought. That’s still a big part of the state but that figure is 5 percentage points lower than last week.

Drought conditions continue to exert a tight grip on the Panhandle and the Wichita Falls areas, where extreme to exceptional drought status remains over a significant area. But the size of those exceptional drought locations has diminished in recent weeks.

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Also, across the Texas High Plans and the Rolling Plains, severe drought status is displacing some of the extreme to exceptional drought conditions. Abnormally dry to moderate drought also covers more of the state than in recent weeks, improvement over the severe to extreme conditions that have persisted through much of the spring and summer.

A large chunk of East Texas is now drought-free following several weeks of scattered rainfall events. Much of Central Texas is now considered abnormally dry, as is a large portion of South Texas, including the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Several LRGV counties are now drought free. Most of far West Texas is considered in moderate drought or just abnormally dry.

The numbers are: 58 percent of the state in moderate to exceptional drought; that’s down from 63 percent last week, 69 percent three months ago and 93 percent this time last year.

Reservoir levels, the weekly report shows, have not improved significantly, remaining “relatively flat, up to 120,000 acre-feet, only 0.4 percentage points.

No one is calling the drought officially ended but recent rainfall and fairly decent crop conditions across much of the Southwest offer some hope to farmers and ranchers across the region.