Soft music rolled over the hills and through the mountain laurels, from a neighbor’s backyard to Trisha and Jeremiah Escamilla’s expensive new water storage tank. “Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground,” the Talking Heads’ David Byrne crooned.
About a year ago, 550 feet under the rocks, stones and rolling hills of their Bandera property, there was no water underground. The dry spell lasted two weeks, and the waitlist to get the well serviced was months-long.
“It was not fun having to go get jugs of water from my mom’s and bring them back to flush toilets and stuff,” Trisha said.
There are a lot of mouths to water at the Escamilla household. The couple has two kids and three big dogs.
“It’s scary,” Jeremiah said. “I mean, pretty much anything that breaks down out here, you have the ability to fix or something to do, but when the water goes dry 500 or 600 feet down, there’s nothing you can do. You can’t just make water up here, you know. And then now you have a mortgage property that you’re paying on that might not have any use.”
They purchased a water storage tank with enough room for an approximately two-week supply, and the well is pumping again. But Jeremiah is concerned that it’s only a matter of time before the water again runs dry, especially with the increasingly rapid development of the area — an influx of new homes and big box stores.
“Nobody can compete with the corporations that are coming out,” he said. “We’re starting to get a lot of commercial property out here, and they can (dig deeper groundwater wells) than anybody because they have deeper pockets. They can dig far deeper.”
Development isn’t the only threat. As the climate changes, weather patterns are becoming more extreme.
Amir AghaKouchak is an engineering professor at University of California Irvine. He studies the extremes of climate change.
“Model projections of the future show that we may see events that you have never experienced, at least in our modern records,” he said.
That includes the potential for record-breaking drought in some areas.
“It is really hard to tell when and how droughts will change in the future,” he said. “But we know that even already we have had a significant impact on frequency and severity of drought events.”
The driving force behind global climate change is carbon emissions, but the specific changes in weather patterns will look different depending on where you live.
“Obviously, emissions can change our climate,” he said. “Changing climate means changing meteorology, and in some regions, it may result in more droughts, longer droughts, and in some other regions, maybe a wetter climate.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change is actually making the Texas Hill Country — where the Escamillas live — a little wetter. But travel a bit to the west, and everything from the Big Bend region up to the Texas panhandle and over to California — most of the Western United States — have become drier.