HOUSTON – An intensifying drought across the Lone Star State has forced more communities to increase water restrictions in an effort to head off any potential shortages.
The country’s fourth-largest city, Houston, recently announced it will enter the second stage of its drought contingency plan, which limits outdoor watering. It's the first time Houston has been in this level of it's drought plan since 2011.
"The Drought Contingency Plan calls for Stage Two mandatory water conservation measures when the significant drop in annual rainfall and higher-than-normal daily temperatures lead to continued stress on the water system," the city stated.
Locals had hoped Tropical Storm Harold would lead to widespread drought relief, but the storm did little to turn the drought status around in Texas.
While final impacts are still being calculated, only a narrow stretch of the state between Interstates 35 and 37 saw rainfall totals above 5 inches.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 95% of the state is experiencing either dry or drought conditions, with communities west and northeast of Houston in the worst shape. Nearly half the state is reported to be experiencing either extreme or exceptional drought conditions.
The dry weather has led to crop failures and increased fire dangers, with at least 208 counties under a burn ban, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
The National Weather Service reported Houston is facing a rainfall deficit of more than 2 inches, while communities around Dallas face a growing deficit of more than 9 inches.
Many utility providers rely on a four-stage plan that dictates when commercial and residential use is restricted during dry periods.
"Our goal is to reduce water usage from all customers by 10%," officials at Houston Public Works said. "Our crews are working diligently in conjunction with area contractors to repair water leaks across the city."
A customer found in violation of watering guidelines is subject to a written warning and can be fined up to $2,000 for reoccurring occurrences.
No drought relief in sight
The FOX Forecast Center said there is no significant drought relief in store for the Lone Star State through the next several days.
A frontal boundary is expected to push into Texas next week that will help kick off a few scattered showers and thunderstorms, but rainfall will be hit-and-miss.
Another significant ridge is expected to take hold during the final days of August and into the first part of September, which could lay the foundation for another heat wave and extended dry period.