The drought conditions have primarily hurt agriculture in Texas so far. For example, Nielsen-Gammon said ranchers have sold off their cattle for meat or to other areas because they can’t afford to keep them under the drought conditions.
“We’ve seen a very large increase in sell-offs of cattle, in some cases entire herds, because of lack of forage, lack of water and [the] prohibitive cost of bringing in provision feed and water from outside,” he said.
While this means ranchers can still bring in some income right now, it also means they’re giving up profitable cattle that they could use to raise more calves in the future. And rebuilding a good herd requires time and effort. For consumers, it could also mean higher prices down the road.
In West Texas, which has been affected by drought since last August, farmers have said they fear crop losses because of the lack of moisture in the ground. The drought has also increased the risk of wildfires and the need for firefighting resources.
In most of the state, the drought has not yet affected the water supply, but South Texas and areas served by reservoirs along the Rio Grande have already seen water shortage concerns, Neilsen-Gammon said, pointing to the Falcon Reservoir, which reached “historically low levels” this summer.
Many public water systems across the state have issued varying levels of water restrictions or asked the public to conserve water, according to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality list from earlier this month.
A few public water systems in the counties of Uvalde, Denton and Kerr have also declared emergencies, a sign they could run out of water within 45 days, according to the TCEQ.
City officials in the North Texas town of Gunter warned in July that they could run out of water after residents failed to heed calls for conservation and two water wells malfunctioned.
In Uvalde County, five of the eight groundwater wells in the small town of Concan have run out of water, requiring leaders to truck water across town every day, the San Antonio Express-News reported.