Friday, September 30, 2011

The Day the Rain Stopped

We flew in from San Francisco yesterday and my window seat behind the bulkhead provided me a great view of the land below. And it was an eyeful. The parched earth below had a redness more like Mars than the Earth I remember. Like Mars, there are huge canals where water used to be.

True, no one actually can point to the day or even the month when the rain stopped, but we certainly know the year. It was 2011. Here in Central Texas we are headed for the driest year anyone of any age has experienced. We've had 7 inches of rain so far.

This comes from the Lower Colorado River Authority.

"With the extreme hot and dry weather showing no signs of relenting, LCRA forecasts that this drought could become the worst on record by early spring.

Given this forecast, LCRA’s Board of Directors decided Sept. 21 to ask the state for permission to significantly curtail or cut off water for downstream agricultural use next year if the levels of lakes Buchanan and Travis remain low. You can read more about that decision here.

The 11 months from October 2010 through August 2011 have been the driest for that 11-month period in Texas since 1895, when the state began keeping rainfall records. This summer in Texas has been the hottest in the country's history, according to the National Weather Service.

These historically hot and dry conditions have reduced the flow of water in the tributaries that feed the Highland Lakes, the region's water supply reservoirs, to a trickle. From January through August, the amount of water flowing into the lakes, called inflows, has been less than 10 percent of average. Inflows for June, July and August are less than one percent of average, making that three-month period the lowest for inflows of any three months in recorded history. September is on track to be the lowest single month for inflows on record, and 2011 is on pace to have the lowest inflows of any year in history."

My Partner and I see this at a ground zero level each Friday when we celebrate the end of the week by driving to the cove on the other side of the dam and swim in those remarkably clear waters. Each Friday, we see with our own eyes how the level has dropped. We now swim 50 feet below the rocks we used to sit on while dangling our feet in those limestone contained waters.

We watch as the Lake reverts back to what it was and is...a river canyon.

The politics of water are legion and they are intense. And with any understanding of the effects of Climate Change on the watersheds which give us our water supply, its easy to imagine that the politics of water treatment plants will soon give way to a far more grave scenario...diminishing supplies. This year, less than 100,000 acre feet flowed into the Highland Lakes. Our average is closer to 900,000.

Climate Change scientists have been warning us for 3 decades that the Southwest will become drier, and that the great western American deserts are moving east and north.

When you drive to Marathon and Alpine, you see trees, all kinds of trees, cedars, shrub oak, dying on the proverbial vine. In the real desert around Terlingua even the lechugea is giving up.

When I was a boy, I remember the dry times that were the 50s when Austin actually got less than 10 inches of rain in 1954. My home town in the Panhandle was the center of the dust bowl in the 30s. Yes, we can act like this is all natural, and remember that three years after those 9.98 inches of rain in 1954, we got 55 inches of rain in 1957, and that things will surely even out like they always do.

You can be satisfied in your wisdom based on your past experience.,

You can sort of believe all those Academies of Science representing the entire earth that are warning we Earthlings that we must change our energy systems and plan to adapt now. But, kind of like being a Methodist, you don't really believe. Not enough to change.

It won't be my house that burns to the ground, or my city that has no plan B for water, or my region that can no longer support its population, or our own nation that has no plan for Climate Change because of a broken political system which favors Capital over Community.

When the rain stops,

everything else follows.

And the Red States

will beg to be blue.


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