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Mar 012012

From Green Right Now Reports

Whether it’s climate change or the warming ocean pattern of La Niña, last year’s blazing summer heat and near total lack of rainfall have convinced many Texans that water conservation must top the agenda.

The state’s worst-ever drought, fueled by summer temperatures that broke Dust Bowl records, put ranchers out of business, destroyed the cotton crop, triggered wild fires and set water officials worrying about the future.

With warm weather just around the corner, water boards and citizen groups are huddling over strategy plans. Most cities remain on water restrictions, because despite recent rains, the state’s rainfall deficit continues.

And nowhere is concern more evident than in Lubbock, nearly ground zero for the lost cotton fields, and host to a mammoth dust storm last October that evoked images of the stricken 1930s.

That dust storm, known as a haboob, kicked up more than dirt. It has raised speculation that the region’s
“background conditions” are changing, according to a story by Michael Haederle in Texas Climate News.

If true, that could leave West Texas indefinitely more susceptible to soil erosion and continuing drought and excessive heat.

Haboobs are not unknown in these parts, but this one, coming in a year when just 5.86 inches of precipitation fell – the driest on record – underscored Lubbock’s vulnerability to climate disruption. Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, says that while it’s impossible to attribute any particular weather event to global climate change, “What we can say is that climate change has altered our background conditions.”

Aubrey Spear, director of Lubbock’s water utility, told Haederle that the city has already raised water rates to discourage over irrigation of lawns, and will need a three-pronged approach to assure future water supplies. It will have to tap a more diversified set of water sources, exercise conservation and also reuse water.

….In addition to making water more expensive, local officials have worked with nurseries and developers to promote the use of less-thirsty plants for landscaping, Spear says. Homeowners have also been encouraged to plant drought-tolerant lawn varieties like Bermuda grass and Buffalo grass instead of the lush fescues adapted to wetter conditions. “We call it ‘SmartScape,’” Spear says. “It fits our unique climate. We’re not Dallas and we’re not El Paso. We’re in between.”

To read more, see the full article at Texas Climate News.