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Water School

What is a drought?

A drought is generally considered to be a prolonged period of less-than-normal precipitation such that the lack of water causes below-average streamflow or lake levels, lowered soil moisture, crop damage, or economic losses. 

Droughts are globally the second-most costly weather event behind hurricanes, according to National Geographic. In Texas, during the 2011 drought, an estimated $7.62 billion was lost by farmers and ranchers, according to Texas AgriLife. 

Not only are droughts one of the costliest weather events on Earth, but they are also increasing in severity. Texas is one state that is most threatened by the projected increase in widespread summer drought severity by 2050, according to States at Risk, powered by Climate Central. 

As the risk of drought increases, it is important that drought awareness is spread. 

There are four types of droughts:
1.    Meteorological – when an area gets less rain than typical for the region
2.    Agricultural – when the available moisture is not ample enough for the crop
3.    Hydrological – when surface and ground waters are below typical ranges
4.    Socioeconomic – when the clean supply does not meet the demand

It is difficult to correctly mark the beginning and end of a drought, but the biggest signifier is less than normal rainfall for several weeks, months or years. Marking the end of a drought is as difficult as specifically marking the beginning, but the typical signifier for the end of a drought is repeated soaking rains over an extended period. Soaking rains are rain that soaks into the soil, recharging groundwater and providing water for vegetation, streams and water reservoirs.

You might be wondering, "Why wouldn't one big rainfall end a drought?" And that is a great question! One big rainfall is not often enough to end a drought because the rain can come too fast to be absorbed by the soil, becoming runoff.

We can help prevent drought severity by avoiding water overuse, a significant contributor to the strain on our water sources. It is also important for us to conserve water and monitor its use.

Sources:

Texas' Climate Threats | States at Risk
Updated 2011 Texas agricultural drought losses total $7.62 billion - AgriLife Today 
When does a drought begin and end? | U.S. Geological Survey (usgs.gov)

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The information provided on this site is intended as background on water within the Brazos River basin. There should be no expectation that this information is all encompassing, complete or in any way examines every aspect of this very complex natural resource.

If you have questions about a post or would like additional information, please contact us or call 888-922-6272.

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