Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I am no stranger to the rain. I grew up in Ireland. When I first moved to Central Texas, and for a number of years after, I did not join in the local excitement when it rained, neither did I understand their reluctance to go anywhere in the rain. Of course, bearing in mind the driving style of Texans (see my blog here) and their determination to ignore changes to road conditions and refusal to adjust their driving accordingly, it is somewhat understandable. If the Irish waited for the rain to stop before doing anything, they would do nothing at all, and my firm belief is that if I didn't dissolve before, I surely won't at this stage in my life.

However, in the last 5 years my attitude has changed, don't get me wrong, I still don't allow the rain to stop me from carrying on my daily life, and I still don't dissolve when I get wet, but I do get very excited when it rains, and the more it rains, the happier I am. That is because I have finally realized what the results of prolonged drought will do to a country.

Central Texas has the most amazing landscape, and a large number of lakes although all of them are man made, the only natural lake in all of this giant sized state is Caddo Lake in East Texas. As with everything else in Texas, when it rains, it rains BIG. Flooding, in particular, flash flooding, is a very real hazard. The lakes are mainly for flood control but they are also the only source of drinking water for the majority of people living in a very wide area surrounding them. They are also a great recreational resource.

The Highland Lakes on the Colorado river, which flows through Austin, were formed by a series of dams. There are seven lakes in all. One of the more popular is Lake Travis, it is our favorite and we have gone boating and fishing on Lake Travis for years. Plus, it is the source of all of our water supply. The last three years of drought have seriously depleted the levels of all of our lakes and Lake Travis looks very sad indeed.

In this photo the levels are down very slightly

In the photo to the right, you can see just how bad things have become. This is almost exactly the same view, the island showing above the surface to the left of the picture is known as Sometimes Island, as it only sometimes appears. However, in the past three years it has not only been visible, it has developed a lush growth and has turned from an island into a archipelago, and then into a peninsula.

This website has some very interesting information on the lakes, including the chart below, which is interactive on the website. 

As you can see, at the time of writing, because we have had a few weeks of healthy rainfall, the level is rising, but we are still seriously below normal:

What truly amazes me is that people who have lived in this area all their lives, and have seen serious flooding - flash flooding, and severe drought, still waste water at an alarming rate, and with every flood event, there will be deaths and frequent rescues as people ignore the warnings, and the road closed signs and still drive, or attempt to drive across low water crossings.

Most homeowners and businesses in Texas have sprinkler systems to water their lawns and green areas, and the water they use is coming from the same source as the water we drink, the sadly depleted lakes. It is one of the more painful sights in Central Texas to see a sprinkler system running, often during the hottest part of the day, and the precious water is flowing across sidewalks and down the street.

Just slightly less painful is to see a sprinkler system running during a heavy rainfall. Less painful because at least it is raining.

And I have finally learned to welcome the rain.

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