By Andrew Freedman, in a Climate Central repost
Although recent rains have put a dent in the Texas drought, a day of reckoning looms for the state’s long-grain rice growers, who pump millions into the economy in Southeast Texas each year and account for about 5 percent of America’s rice production. Come March 1, if there is less than 850,000 acre-feet of water in reservoirs along the Lower Colorado River, water managers will be forced to take the unprecedented step of withholding water from agricultural users, which will mean severe cuts to Texas rice production this year.
According to Bob Rose, chief meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), it’s unlikely that enough rain will fall between now and March 1 to reach the 850,000 acre-feet threshold that was established by a recent agreement between the authority and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot, and it amounts to about 326,000 gallons.
As of January 30, the highland lakes that serve as the area’s reservoirs held about 758,000 acre-feet.
“This is going to be a huge, huge deal,” Rose said during a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans. “What’s going to happen is that there will be no water for rice irrigation in the Lower Colorado River Basin this year.”