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Water and drought relationship and outlook

Amarillo, TX - Our lakes and rivers in the panhandle are drying up, but what lies beneath the surface should keep our region going for years to come.

2011's drought hit us hard in the Panhandle, with Lake Meredith all but disappearing over the last two years.  And while no one really knows how long we'll be feeling the after-effects of that drought, our water supply should last for the foreseeable future.

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, the total surface water reservoir capacity stands at about 66 percent for the state as a whole.  By comparison, our current capacity here in the Panhandle is 1.5 percent

However, the Canadian river municipal water authority says those numbers only reflect surface water, and our region operates off substantial groundwater supplies.

"We think we have at least 130 years of water before we start bumping up against the groundwater district rules," says Kent Satterwhite, CRMWA General Manager, "We've got lots of water, but you know, as far as surface water, we've been in a drought for 13 years now."

The National Weather Service says droughts are all but impossible to predict with total certainty, but our rainfall has been waning for quite a while, as NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Krissy Scotten says, "Typically speaking, I think three to five years is what we see, but big picture-wise, long-term, we've definitely been dry since the early 2000s."

Drought patterns are cyclical in semi-arid regions like ours, but there are many factors that determine the length, severity, and societal impact.

"This type of drought is what we saw in the 1930s in the Dust Bowl," says Scotten,  "You know, the type of precipitation amounts. So we're living through a drought that is very similar to that."

"If we didn't have a groundwater project, I think people would be moving from this region," says Satterwhite,  "But we're in a pretty good spot because of that."

Earlier this week, Texas Department of Agriculture Todd Staples unveiled a new website called "The Water Source" to make it easier to find data and resources relevant to your area and your situation.

You can find that at the links attached to this story.

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