Severe Drought Moves To Houston, Most Of The State In Drought Conditions

< ahref="http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/DM_state.htm?TX,S">U.S. Drought Monitor graphic
Latest reports from the U.S. Drought Monitor show most of Harris County in severe drought. How are the conditions and how do they compare to a couple years back?

Most of the state is in some form of drought.  And if you want to pin down a number to most, here's Robert Mace with the Texas Water Development Board.

"Ninety-eight-point-six percent of the state is now in drought conditions."

Most of Harris and Liberty and all of Fort Bend and Brazoria counties are in severe drought.  Now that's not the worst category.  There are two levels more severe that.  Mace says the state is in better shape than it was at the height of the drought of 2011, but things are still not good.  Mace says the state's been doing more, looking into increasing water supply and conservation.  But he says measures put in place right now won't be able to meet the most extreme of circumstances.

"If we had a repeat of the drought of record in Texas, which in most cases was the drought of the 1950s, would we have enough water now? And the answer is: 'No.'"

Major reservoirs in the Houston area are below the levels they were at at this time in 2011. 

"Right now, Lake Conroe is 86 percent full, that's compared to 93 percent at this time in 2011. Lake Houston is 99 percent full, and it was 100 percent full in 2011."

But those reservoirs aren't anywhere near the low levels they were at the height of the drought.  And Kurt Vanspeybroek, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says reservoirs in the area aren't replenishing as fast.

While precipitation levels in the Houston area aren't super critical right now, he says,  they're starting to get there.

"So Houston-College Station-Galveston area have been running about 50 percent of normal on the dry side."

That's looking at rainfall starting in October of last year.  The state legislature has been considering what it can do.  Just last week the House passed HB4, which gives state assistance to water providers and sets aside loans for conservations projects.  Luke Metzger with Environment Texas says some of that money could help this city.

"For example in Houston, at the peak of the drought, was losing as much as 25 percent of the water from leaks and municipal water mains.  So we can spend some money to help repair leaking pipes."

Gov. Rick Perry called on the state legislature to tap into the rainy day fund for infrastructure projects, including water supply and conservation projects. If the current HB 11, which is right now in committee, passes both chambers $2 billion from the rainy day fund would go toward the new water fund.