Updated: Sep 4
By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.
--Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey
There is indeed magic in water, and no one knows that better than people living in arid lands. Unfortunately, we are experiencing less and less water across our desert Southwest. Currently we are experiencing what has been termed a megadrought. Although megadroughts have come and gone over time, this one is already over 20 years long. And, if you look at tree ring data, you must go back to medieval times to find a time when the world’s climate was as dry as we are experiencing now.
If you spend time outside in a natural environment, you see and feel the effects of this drought. If you look at a drought monitor online, https://www.drought.gov/ you can see that almost half our country is in a severe drought and that we are in the third, Extreme Drought, out of four drought stages. This twenty-year drought is severely affecting the Colorado River Basin which depends on snowpack and rain to fill major reservoirs like Lake Mead in Nevada, and provide water for agricultural use, as well as supply major urban areas such as Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Tucson.
However, in our West Texas urban areas, you would not even know that there was a drought. Most mornings, there is irrigation water pooling or running down neighborhood streets. Midland-Odessa water comes from far away well fields or reservoir lakes and for more information on how this is all connected, see CRMWD https://www.crmwd.org/ Historically, water use in Midland and Odessa increases from roughly May to October due to irrigation of our yards which is about 60% of our monthly bill. Like many of our resources, we are mining water faster than water in our aquifers or reservoirs can be replaced. Water has become an invisible, cheap commodity instead of a life-renewing, resource that we all depend on. Every five years Texas Water Development Board produces a state water plan. In the 2022 Texas State Water Plan, the projected water demands, existing water supplies, potential shortages, and strategies to address shortage by state. The bottom-line is that Texas will need to decrease its water use up to 50% in the next decade to meet growing demand.
If all this seems daunting, read Part 2 next week to see how West Texas, and you individually, can deal with this water crisis.
PERMIAN BASIN MASTER GARDENER PLANT SALE!! April 9 from 9 to 1:00. Ector County Coliseum, Building A. Come early-the plants sell out.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.