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Texas Water Restriction During a Drought Drought Season

Updated on January 12, 2013

Signs go up showing local water restrictions

Water Restriction signs are going up across the State of Texas.
Water Restriction signs are going up across the State of Texas.

Texas Water Restrictions -

2011 Drought Season

By Joan Whetzel

Updates @ the Bottom of this Article

August 2011 marked an unprecedented 10-month dry spell has led to the worst drought in Texas history. Rain deficits, increased demand for water, a log jam of over 600 water main breaks and long stretches of triple digit heat - starting May for some parts of the state - have made a significant impact on water supplies across the state. Now with most of the state in the Drought Intensity Category of D4, meaning an Exceptional Drought, most cities are faced with the difficult decision of calling for water restrictions.

Calling for Restrictions

Houston's Mayor Annise Parker would soon be drawing water from Lake Conroe to boost water levels in Lake Houston and forestall more severe water restrictions in Houston and its surrounding communities. It's a move not taken since the 1988 drought.

The week of August 15, Mayor Parker also pushed Houston to a Water Restriction Level 2, where Austin and central Texas have been for a few weeks already. Some areas of Galveston County are moving into Levels 3 and 4 restrictions. Mayor Parker says the water restrictions are the right thing to do, it's about "being good Neighbors." If everyone does their part to conserve water, then there will be enough for everyone. It also helps to maintain water pressure for certain city services like fire hydrants.

The State of Texas has 4 levels of water restrictions. Stage 1 restrictions are voluntary. Stage 2 (mild), Stage 3 (moderate), and Stage 4 (severe) come with increasing levels of mandatory restrictions.

Stage 1 (voluntary)

Houston began implementing stage 1 restrictions in June 2011. This voluntary stage asks residents to limit watering yards twice a week between the hours of 7 PM and 10 AM as well as limiting the filling or refilling of swimming pools, wading pools and hot tubs. Residents are also asked not to wash vehicles and to fix leaky plumbing fixtures. On a larger scale, voluntary restrictions are requested for fountains, golf course irrigation, and washing down buildings and sidewalks. In addition, restaurants are advised to only serve water to customers upon request.

Stage 2 (moderate)

At Stage 2, the City of Houston plans to ask all City departments to do their part for water conservation by aiming to consume 10% less than normal. All voluntary restrictions in Stage 1 become mandatory and law enforcement agencies may begin writing tickets for fines. Watering restrictions are mandatorily regulated to twice a week between the hours of 7PM to midnight or midnight to 10 AM on designated days. Designated days are defined as odd numbered address on odd days and even addresses on even days. Residents are strongly urged not to wash vehicles, however, if necessary for business reasons, cars may be washed with a buck and a hose supplied with a shut off nozzles.

Stage 3 (severe)

The State of Texas keeps level 2 restrictions in place and adds further restrictions for water conservation. Watering may only be done with hand-held hoses, buckets or drip irrigation. Sprinklers and sprinkler systems are prohibited at this level as is the installation of new landscaping, as it requires too much watering. Also strictly prohibited are washing of vehicles, filling of swimming pools and golf course irrigation. Applications for new or improved water service connections, meters, service lines, water mains, pipeline extensions, etcetera will be denied until water restrictions are lifted.

Stage 4 (emergency)

Stage 4 adds new restrictions to Stage 3 restrictions, which remain in effect. The watering of all non-residential landscaped and all golf course irrigation are completely prohibited. Water used for construction purposes can be taken from specific fire hydrants, but only with a special permit.

If the rain deficits, high temperatures and broken water mains continue, additional measures may be added. Texas residents are encouraged to contact their utility providers to ascertain which water restrictions apply to their neighborhoods. In the meantime, pray for rain and cooler temperatures.


As of Labor Day (September 2011), THe Houston area drought has been officially in full swing since October 2010. This region of Southeast Texas is currently 25 to 30 inches below its normal rainfall. That means that during the period between October to September, the Houston area should have received from 25 to 30 inches more rainfall than has been recorded.


Septemer 11, 2011 - The State of Texas is under "Severe Fire Danger" warnings. Grass, trees and plants have become so dry that any little spark can set off massive wildfires. Citizens are urged to take extreme caution during outside activities to prevent fires. Sparks can come from the simple act of throwing out a cigarette stub, ashes flying from a barbecue grill, or even faulty wiring on mowers or other outdoor equipment. State and local authorities also urge citizens call 911 immediately if a fire or smoke is spotted.


According to the Weather Channel, as of Saturday September 17, 2011, at least 97 percent of the State of Texas is under Severe or Emergency drought conditions. Check out this Video on Weather Channel: "Farmers Coming Up Dry in Drought" by scrolling throught the video choices at this link:


Southeast Texas got a little rain over the weekend and Monday morning, Septembe 17, 18, and 19, but not enough to be a drought buster. The Houston area still has a 18 to 24 inch rain deficit.


As of the beginning of October, many city and state parks across the State of Texas have burn bans in place. This means no grilling is allowed at those affected parks. There is also some discussion of expanding burn bans to include personal home grilling. Also, as of October 5, 2011 the Houston area and southeast Texas, needs about 24" of rain in one month to officially end this drought.


Over the weekend of October 8th and 9th, Texas got a good rainfall - not a drought breaker, but a good rainfall nonetheless. Houston and the surrounding counties got between 3 and 5 inches, which makes a dent in the rain deficit.


Tuesday, Oct. 18,2011 - A cold front is moving through the State of Texas, bringing lower temperatures but little to no rain. High winds will blow all day bringing with it high fire dangers. The high winds are responsible for blowing over some of the dead trees (dead due to the drought) causing a few of them to fall into power lines. TXU Energy (one of the major electric companies in Houston) is offering a program for TXU to cut down dead trees near power lines. TXU only cuts down the trees however. The property owners are responsible for having the chopped down trees removed.


We have had a couple "cold fronts" move through Texas in the last couple of weeks. They have lowered the temperatures to a lovely, moderate fall temperature range and given Texas a few inches of rain. While the State is not out of the drought yet, the rain has lowered the drought and fire danger levels sufficiently to permit Montgomery County residents to burn tree limbs and leaves. Trash burning is still not allowed in Montgomery County.


Burn bans continue to be in effect in state, county and local parks across the Houston and Harris County area. The Harris County Fire Marshall is keeping the bans in place at the current time, despite rainfall over the last few weeks. The Parks and Recreation Department will be revisiting this issue at their next meeting in early December.


December 15, 2011 - Fireworks stands are going up in preparation for New Year's Eve. Many counties and cities like Houston in do not allow fireworks sales or usage by private citizens, but for those that do, fireworks are still of concern due to the drought. Southeast Texas has been experiencing weekly rain events for several weeks now, which has made a dent in the rain deficit, but hasn't eliminated the fire threat altogether. The unicorporated portions of Harris County (Houston's county) and Montgomery county are allowing fireworks sales again after having prevented sales completely for the 4th of July. Montgomery county is currently the only location in Southeast Texas allowing the sale and use of rockets with fins and missiles with sticks. Most fireworks sales however, will be limited to ground displays and a few aereal fireworks with limited range.


Dec. 20, 2011 - The US Forest Service estimates that 10% of all the trees in Texas died this year due to the drought. The Texas Forest Service will be performing an in depth study on the trees and the effect of the drought this spring (2012).


Dec. 31, 2011 - Southeast Texas has gotten enough rain that many of the parks in and around the Houston area have been able to lift their burn bans. So that means grilling is now allowed. For those of you who live up North and aren't familiar with Texas weather, Houston winters are mild with normal temperature ranges from around 45 degrees for the low and around 60 to 65 for the high for most of the winter. We like our grilling, and it's not unconmmon to grill foods outdoors, even in the dead of January - unless, of course, a blue norther has blown through and dropped the temperature into the 20s.


On Monday, Jan. 9,2012, a storm and cold frong moved through Texas, dumping 4 to 6 inches of rain in the Houston and Harris County area. This made a significant dent in the area's rain deficit. The City of Houston and Harris County have lifted water restrictions, calling only for voluntary restrictions at the current time. Hoever, because of strong winds roaring through the State, there are fire storm watches in effect for Thrusday, Jan. 12, 2012.


Wed., Jan. 25, 2012 - Texas had a strom front move through that brought lots of rain. Raifall amounts or the Houston area ran from approximately 1 to 2.5 inches. THe storm also brought high winds which knocked over dead trees (dead from the drought), some of them falling onto power lines and a few homes and spawing at least 2 confirmed tornadoes. The storm also blew several transformers.


As of February 2, 2012, the Houston area needs about 9 to 15 more inches of rain to eradicate the rain deficite, a far cry better than the over 2 feet needed only last October.


Portions of East Texas are now fully recovered from the drought, Much of East Texas from Houston to Austin and San Antonio have been upgraded from sever drought status to moderate drought status.


April 21,2012. East Texas is now considered officially out of the drought. The rest of the State could still use a bit more rain, but conditions are improving.


THe second half of 2012, showed a return of the drought to East Texas. Most of the state had remained in a drought throughout the entire years of 2011 and 2012.


January 2013 has been a rainy month so far. The first two weeks have produced enough rain to, once again, pull East Texas out of its drought. THe rest of Texas is not out of its drought induced rain deficit - yet - but the precipitation so far this month looks promising.


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