Texas MegaDroughts

What is the Future of Texas Water – MegaDroughts?

A recent report published by Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, describes the facts and challenges Texas faces with rainfall, water and drought in the future. Unfortunately, Texas MegaDroughts may be in our near future, a future that can only be described as somewhere between very difficult to life-changing.

Water Line Break in Plano, Texas
Soil Movement breaks Iron Water Line

2011 was a year to remember in Texas. Since rainfall records began in 1895, it was the driest year in history. The drought of 2011 cost Texans billions of dollars in damages, higher costs, lost income, and more. In late August of 2011 the city of Houston was grappling with 1033 leaks in the city’s water system. Although not as severe, the drought of 2013 was also very damaging.

The report included comments about the clay soils of Texas and how they react to changes in moisture content – a topic of great interest to homeowners in Texas. “Much of Texas is covered in clay-rich soils that swell when wet and shrink when soil moisture evaporates. That shrinkage can cause the soil to buckle, damaging foundations, roads, and water and sewer lines.” page 7, The Impact of the 2011 Drought and Beyond, by Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

The report also stated that there are cycles of drought that have affected Texas for centuries. Researchers have confirmed these cycles by studying tree rings and other data. The report discussed “megadroughts” which are severe droughts that can last decades. These megadroughts were described as “infrequent but regular” events in the state of Texas. It has been about 60 years since Texas experienced its last megadrought and the implication is that we may have begun a new megadrought in 2011.

The Consequences of a Texas Megadrought

  • Farmers and ranchers would have to make drastic changes. Bankruptcy faced by many farmers and ranchers – fewer crops and livestock. Higher prices for food.
  • Water efficient appliances would become mandatory (dishwashers, clothes washers, toilets)
  • Cisterns will become popular
  • All outside watering of plants, trees and grass will be banned
  • Wastewater will be recycled for irrigation and human consumption.
  • Utility rates would increase dramatically because of their use of water for cooling equipment
  • Desalination of sea water will occur around the Texas coast
  • Water and water rights will be bought and sold like a valuable commodity

Any drought is very damaging to the concrete slab foundations built on clay soils.  When the soil shrinks dramatically it pulls away from the outside perimeter of the foundation.  With nothing supporting that portion of the foundation the slab will crack and collapse until it reaches some support – which happen to be the shrunken soil that is several inches lower.  Any existing foundation problem will become dramatically worse during a drought.  Should you have any questions call us for a Foundation Inspection.

Below are links to the report mentioned in this blog article and to a newspaper article about the 2011 drought in Houston.

The Impact of the 2011 Drought and Beyond

When it comes to water, Houston can’t catch a break – Houston Chronicle, by Cindy Horswell

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