A year ago, more than 70 percent of the state was in some stage of drought. Today that number is less than 25 percent.
Above average rainfall since last year has helped pull the state further from parched status and the wetter weather means there will be more water to go around for municipalities, industries and farmers in the area.
The state is recovering from one of the worst droughts on record, which began in about 2011. Across the state, towns have officially run out of water, state lawmakers have tried to make funds available for water projects and dry drought conditions helped fuel wildfires across the state in 2011, among other things.
In Galveston County, rice farmers have seen the water available to them curtailed, municipalities have had to find ways to conserve more and the Gulf Coast Water Authority, which provides water to most cities, industries and farmers in Galveston and parts of Brazoria and Fort Bend, has begun looking for new water supplies.
But the above average rainfall that began in the fall and has continued into the spring has helped alleviate drought conditions in much of the state, said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist.
“It had been dry in 2014 along a lot of the Texas coast, but it got a lot rain at the right time,” Nielsen-Gammon said.
The average rainfall for Brazoria County cities in 2015 has been 25 inches, averaging about 6 inches a month since January. That is 10.2 inches above normal, an average of 3.71 inches a month more, according to the National Weather Service.
The county has seen the most amount of rain in the month of May, with about 7 inches, 5.89 inches above normal. There was little rain here in February, though. Less than one inch of rain fell in the area during the year’s second month, 2.29 inches below normal.
Galveston has received about 20 inches of rain from January to May 14 of this year, according to preliminary information from the National Weather Service. That is about 5.55 inches above normal.
The League City area received about 29 inches of rain in the first four and a half months of 2015. That is about 13.31 inches above normal, according to the preliminary data.
Thanks to rain in other areas of the state the reservoirs along the Brazos River, from which the Gulf Coast Water Authority draws its water, have begun to fill.
Of the 11 reservoirs along the river, six were at 95 percent to 100 percent full, according to the Brazos River Authority.
“As a result of the recent rainfall and improved reservoir conditions, there will likely be some downgrades to the drought declarations currently in place,” the authority said on its website.
Things could stay wet for the rest of the year as a fairly strong El Niño weather pattern is expected for the rest of the year, Nielsen-Gammon said.
El Nino is the name given to a change in weather patterns that results in warmer surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and that can cause weather changes in the United States.
The rain, the receding drought and filling reservoirs mean the area is in good shape for the coming summer and into the next year, said Ivan Langford, general manager of the Gulf Coast Water Authority.
Improved conditions mean more water will be available for rice farmers in 2016 as well, he said.
But a future drought is always a possibility. The water authority will keep moving forward with plans to acquire more water, Langford said.
And while conditions are improving, Langford said local residents should still conserve water.
“I’m not going to say the drought is over, but I will certainly say that I am sleeping better,” Langford said.