Anybody who has ever studied Texas agriculture knows that a water shortage could mean a disaster for the state’s agricultural industry. Without enough water, farmers would have to pay huge water bills and they would lose productivity. Texas agriculture is dependent on the water that flows through the Rio Grande from the Colorado River into the Gulf of Mexico.
If the water supply were to suddenly run dry then the true cost of getting water from another source would be passed on to the consumers. For the big economy, a sudden lack of water on a consistent basis is especially important because any shortness in the supply of water can drive major shifts in farming behavior (i.e., planting a lower quality crop, water deliveries) driven by expected future water shortages. Texas is a big part of the United States economy with over three quarters of its crop production coming from agriculture. It also produces a large amount of meat and livestock.
The largest agricultural producers in Texas are the cattle farmers in Central Texas. The main water users in Central Texas are the cattle ranches there and along the Texas-Louisiana border. There are some areas in central Texas where the supply of water could be cut off, but not as many places as there are in Southwestern Texas. The biggest threat to Central Texas would be the drought in the Central Valley that has been caused by high temperatures and low rainfall over the last couple of months.
In the Central Texas area and in the south, where large livestock production areas are located, there are areas where the supply of water may become problematic. There have been many problems with farmers losing their animals and going bankrupt because they had to use more water to get the grass to grow.
Rice production in Central Texas is also dependent on the runoff from the rivers. The water that flows out of the mountains into the lower valleys is not clean enough to support the rice production that occurs in those areas. Even if the rainfall did make it possible to irrigate rice fields without using the large amounts of water that are being used in Central Texas, the water would eventually evaporate before it could be absorbed by the soil and water would end up back in the rivers instead of being absorbed into the rice fields.
Because rice fields are located on top of water-table areas the water that is extracted for irrigation often ends up back into the rivers where it goes into the lakes and streams that feed the smaller rivers that are found in Texas. These smaller rivers will then carry this water into the rivers in smaller amounts, where the water that falls on the rice fields is taken in by plants and wildlife.
So if there was a Texas drought, the impact on the Central Texas crop production would be immediate and widespread, and probably would take more time to be felt in the South Texas. But Texas is different. Even if it did end up causing problems for crops in Central Texas the other states of the South and Southwest would be affected as well.
For the state of Texas the long-term effects on the rest of the country would not be as immediate, but they would still be felt over time. The impact on the South Texas food industry and livestock would be longer lasting but not as large an impact because of the more limited water supply in the area.