Texas Needs to Prepare for Possibility of Extreme Droughts, UT Professor Says in Recent Study

In this May 20, 2015, file photo, Michael Ruiz, shift superintendent for Wastewater Treatment II, at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant tours the Secondary Treatment Clarifiers tanks at the Los Angeles Sanitation plant where millions of gallons of wastewater are purified each day in Van Nuys, Calif.
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Texas needs to start making plans for a future that could include unprecedented drought challenges, a University of Texas at Austin professor says.

The study, led by a research group at UT Austin, explored what taking action might look like for water stakeholders across the state, including farmers and municipal water suppliers.

"We're in for some major challenges in the 21st century. We're in for unprecedented drought risk," said Jay Banner, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at UT-Austin said in the press release. "Realizing how many stakeholders that have input and manage water in Texas -- which, at the end of the day, is all of us -- was the impetus for this study."

Published in the journal Earth's Future, the study examined Texas' current water planning, which is focused on sustaining the state in conditions comparable to the worst drought in the state’s instrumental record: a six-year spell in the 1950s, the researchers said.

However, according to climate model projections in the study, Texas droughts could be much more extreme by the end of the 21st century, possibly exceeding 10-year megadroughts.

Led by state climatologist and Texas A&M University professor John Nielsen-Gammon, the study was conducted by members of the Texas Water Research Network, a water research hub at UT Austin’s Environmental Science Institute.

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