Every summer, starting with the 2006 Dallas scorcher featuring more than 65 consecutive days without measurable rain, I’ve been writing about and longing for one of my favorite summer activities from childhood.
When rain that year finally poured down, halting our unbelievable National Weather Service record, several of my neighbors were tickled by what they witnessed: a grown woman, barefoot, running toward the end of our street, unashamed at her childlike innocence, undeterred by fingers pointed as refreshing storms chased away the heat. She raised her arms up to the sky, gleefully celebrating the rush of rain over skin.
I must’ve looked like someone in the throes of a liquid meltdown. I didn’t care. Dancing and spinning, my clothes were soaked. Mascara streaked down my face and my salon hairdo quickly morphed from straight to wavy.
The rain was beautiful, reminiscent of those fat drops a young girl once stuck out her tongue to capture. I love what rain can represent: a cleansing, nature’s way of providing watery sustenance for everything thirsty — cows, crops, creeks and children like me.
Now, with most of the state under drought conditions — ranging from moderate to severe — I’m left to settle for the excitement of forecasters predicting a 10 percent chance for rain. Stated in the reverse, that means a 90 percent chance it’s not happening. I’ll take 10 and keep wishing. I crave the rain and want to get thoroughly drenched by its impurity.
The current drought, which officially began in 2010, has produced a domino effect impacting everything from food prices to cotton crops, from timber to tourism, from hay to the heat. Area lakes are low. Hundreds of communities like mine have restricted water use. Occasionally, we even hear of smaller towns running out of water completely.
Earlier this year, economists predicted ranchers and farmers would suffer $8 billion in losses. That’s part of the reason it is critically important for Texans to understand whatever roles global warming and recurring global weather patterns play as we wait for precious rain.
Lawmakers and citizens need to strategize on more ways to conserve and protect our water supply for the future. As people flock to Texas in search of jobs and a climate that rarely produces bitter-cold winters, we must prepare to meet future needs. Experts who know more about this than I do have concluded that Texas may be short by as much as 8 million “acre-feet” of water if we do not have additional supplies by 2060.
Fortunately, Texans will have the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment this fall that will provide a fund to finance projects in the State Water Plan. Finally, it seems, we have a consensus that we must address the need for long-term water planning and projects.
For some, rain is relief, be it a brief annoyance in rush-hour traffic, or a prolonged pleasure on a day off from work lazily drowsing in bed. For Texans, rain is life and we need it to survive.