Water Shortage Is Latest Texas Citrus Concern

Josh McGillTexas, Water

A little more than 20 inches of rain has fallen on Dale Murden’s Texas grapefruit grove in 2022 — “about average for the year,” he says. But the majority of Texas is in severe drought, and that poses problems for Murden and other Texas growers, especially for the future.

Microjet irrigation for citrus.

“We just are not seeing any rain or significant inflows in the watershed that replenishes our two main storage reservoirs for irrigation and municipalities,” Murden says. “The water districts in the commercial citrus zone have been on allocations since the first of the year.”

Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual, says the drought over most of Texas is just the latest in a series of weather-related setbacks for Texas growers. He ticks them off: “2020 flood and hurricane damage, 2021 freeze damage, and now 2022 drought and water allocations.”

Because of the water allocations, Murden has irrigated only once this year in an old flood irrigation grove he owns. “During the summer, we’d ideally like to stay on a 15- to 20-day (irrigation) schedule. But with allocations in place, that’s not possible,” he says. “Many growers planned ahead and bought up extra water allotments over the last two years in anticipation of a lingering drought and dwindling (water) supply.”

Due to the water shortage, Murden’s grapefruit are smaller than usual at this point in the season, but “quality looks great,” he says. “I think we will survive this season and upcoming harvest fairly well in spite of that trifecta of events (hurricane, freeze and drought) these last three years. We have estimated we’d be back to about 70% of our normal production following the 2021 freeze. This still looks good.”

The future is more of a concern due to the water shortage. “Next year is what we worry about with rapidly dwindling reservoir levels,” Murden concludes.

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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