WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) — A North Texas city experiencing its worst drought on record may face a decade or longer of persistent hot, dry weather, state and federal climatologists warned at a public forum Tuesday.
Wichita Falls, about 110 miles northwest of Fort Worth, will likely need to undertake costly programs to retrieve or treat water as its reservoirs fall to dangerous lows, the experts said.
The forum, among a half dozen gatherings organized by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration across the U.S. Southern Plains, focused on preservation efforts, climate forecasts and financial assistance available to those whose businesses have suffered from a lack of water.
Drinking water supplies for about 150,000 users around Wichita Falls have fallen precipitously from nearly 90 percent capacity before the drought began in late 2010 to less than a quarter of capacity, according to the Texas Water Development Board.
The city has banned irrigation, attempted to increase rainfall with cloud seeding and is now awaiting approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates public water sources, for a toilet-to-tap reuse program.
Still, the city's reservoirs are on a trajectory to run dry by August 2016.
TCEQ officials have not made a final decision on the city's proposal.
The current drought is the second-worst in Texas after the historic 1950s Dust Bowl, according to the state's climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon.
"This truly is a historic drought," the intensity of which is seen only every 200 to 400 years in stable climate conditions, Nielsen-Gammon said.
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