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Earth Friendly: Drought

March 22, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 21, 2012 at 10:22 p.m.


By Marie Lester

It has been a very long time since I have heard someone chant "rain, rain go away, come again another day" without following it up with the sentence "but we really need the rain."

Talking about the weather is just one of those easy to have small-talk conversations - and most of them lately have been about lack of rain and the drought.

You might be asking "So are we in a drought, still, because it sure rained hard last week" or someone might tell you, "There's no way we are in a drought because my yard is a mud pit right now."

But these are misconceptions - the Victoria area is in fact, in a drought.

A drought is hard to define. It isn't as simple as calculating rainfall and river levels. Drought isn't simply a noun; it is set of conditions that an area is experiencing when there isn't enough water to support all of the needs of that area.

Drought is generally caused by a lack of rain or snow, but other variables also play a part. Some of these variables are what time of year the rain falls, whether the rain falls all at once or is spread over time and what part of the landscape the rain falls on.

The definition of a drought may vary from region to region. A drought in Victoria (average rainfall of 37 inches) wouldn't be considered a drought in Libya (annual rainfall of less than 180 millimeters).

So, when you hear we are in a drought, that doesn't mean the whole world is in a drought, or the whole country or even the whole state of Texas.

Drought cannot be predicted, but scientists can study global weather patterns to help determine rainfall patterns. The drought in our area is currently expected to continue with some improvement, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Victoria is in a drought (considered a mild drought by the Palmer Drought Severity index) for several reasons.

First, Victoria only received about 13 inches of rainfall in 2011. That is 24 inches fewer than Victoria's average rainfall of 37 inches.

Second, rainfall in communities upstream of the Guadalupe River was also lower. Therefore, the water levels in the Guadalupe River can't recoup (Victoria's main source of water is the Guadalupe River).

And finally, water usage in the Victoria area grows with population. A steady or shrinking amount of water can't support more people.

Drought conditions are monitored by organizations such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.

Communities such as Victoria stay informed of monitoring data and have a plan of action for different drought conditions. Victoria places restrictions on water use when river levels are low, stored water in reservoirs reach lower level, or converts to using groundwater to meet area demands. Victoria does not currently have any water restrictions in place for its residents.

Here are some tips to help conserve water in the current drought conditions:

Bathroom:•  Reduce shower time to five minutes.

•  Test your toilet for leaks.

•  Install a low flow shower head.

Kitchen: •  Rinse dishes with a pan full of water rather than running water.

•  Never run the dishwasher without a full load.

Outdoor:•  Water your lawn during the early morning hours.

•  Use a bucket to wash your car rather than a running hose.

•  Water your lawn according to turf type.

For more water conservation tips, visit victoriatx.org and navigate to the Public Works Education Page.

Marie Lester, is the environmental programs coordinator for the city of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her with topic ideas, inspiration, questions and comments at cmlester@victoriatx.org.

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