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Texas Water Report:
Going Deeper for the Solution

Surprising Costs Imposed by Drought

Droughts do more than raise water prices. Here are some impacts you might not have considered.

Subsidence

Pump enough water out of the ground, and sometimes the ground sinks. This is called subsidence.

In some areas east of Houston, the land has dropped by more than nine feet.

Subsidence destroys foundations and breaks underground pipes. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that it has affected more than 17,000 square miles in 45 states, 80 percent of it due to groundwater usage.

If it goes on long enough, even aquifers can feel the pinch, permanently losing storage capacity.

Brownwood, a subdivision near Baytown, Texas, was abandoned due to frequent flooding caused by subsidence.

(Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Theron D. Sage)

Disease

Drought can concentrate water-borne disease. Look to the Rio Grande for a stunning example; the concentrations of pathogens increase nearly 100-fold during dry summer months.

Hot weather and drought also can prompt outbreaks of insect-transmitted disease such as the West Nile virus.

Birds carry West Nile virus.
       In dry conditions, birds drink  standing water. Standing water is a mosquito breeding  ground. Mosquitoes feed on the birds

Texas saw more than 1,700 confirmed cases and 89 deaths from the virus in 2012.

Detecting, treating and preventing West Nile infection is expensive.  

The drought of 2011 was the worst one-year Texas drought in more than a century. It caused billions of dollars in economic losses. See page 10 of Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution (PDF) to see which industries were hit hardest.