'Deer Capital' Of Texas Struggles With Drought

Melissa Block talks with Llano, Texas, Mayor Mike Reagor about the ongoing drought in his city. The river that runs through town is extremely low. Llano has been dubbed the "deer capital of Texas" — and Reagor says the deer, with little to drink, are withering in the heat. Reagor is also a rancher, and he says he's selling cattle because of the drought.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: Look at a drought map of Texas and you'll see just about the entire state shaded a dark brown, indicating exceptional drought conditions. That's the highest level, one level worse than extreme.

Mike Reagor is the mayor of Llano, Texas. About 3,200 people live there. It's in the hill country, north and west of Austin.

Mayor Reagor, what does it look like? When you drive around Llano up in the hill country, what do you see?

Mayor MIKE REAGOR: Brown grass and dead-looking trees.

BLOCK: Everywhere you go?

REAGOR: Just everywhere you go.

BLOCK: And what about the river, the Llano River?

REAGOR: The Llano River is a very remarkable river. It's fed - it's spring fed. And remarkably, the river stayed flowing throughout the summer.

BLOCK: Still flowing but is it way down?

REAGOR: Oh, yes. It's - the average flow of the Llano River is over 100 cubic feet per second. And we're down around two cubic feet per second.

BLOCK: No kidding. I've read that back in the '50s, the Llano River actually went dry - went dry for just about three months.

REAGOR: It went dry, well, it went dry for 66 consecutive days. And that was very hard for the city to take. Actually, we had to haul water in for our water supply.

BLOCK: Tell me, sir, how you're putting water restrictions in place. Why can't people do?

REAGOR: Well, in Llano, we can water by hand one day a week, usually on - depending on what your address is, either Saturday or Sunday. The intent of that is to more or less, to try to keep our trees alive. Other watering is not allowed. Most yards in town are completely dead.

Some people have drilled their own wells. Some people have hauled in water from the country and kept some of their grasses alive. But more or less, the whole town is brown.

BLOCK: What about people's livelihoods that are affected by the drought, either ranchers or folks in agriculture, people like that?

REAGOR: Well, it's severe. You know, ranchers always plan for drought. But we're also very optimistic people. We like to think there's going to be an end to this. But this has caused a lot of people just to completely get out of the business and to think about retiring from ranching for a while.

BLOCK: I gather, Mayor Reagor, that you have some cattle yourself.

REAGOR: Yes, ma'am. I may have a few less here in the next few days.

BLOCK: You're thinking about selling?

REAGOR: I'm selling. I'm going to sell some. And try to keep my base herd going, and so I can kind of recover without having to re-buy everything.

BLOCK: I wonder if it's hard when the drought has gone on as long as it has, and it's been as hot as it has for so long, if it's hard to think about things getting better, think about an end to this?

REAGOR: There is a psychological side to this drought and hot weather here. I have not seen people just kind of depressed about things as much as I've seen recently here. But it's so hot, I think the heat has affected as much as anything. It's been unusually hot. I mean, 108, 110-degree days. People just don't get out and do things like they used to.

BLOCK: Can you remember the last time it rained there in Llano?

REAGOR: Oh, we had a whole .05 sometime in July.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

REAGOR: That's been about our only measurable rainfall that we've had this summer. It's been - even in the 1956 drought, I looked, it rained three inches in May. And I would've loved to have a three-inch rain this last May.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

REAGOR: But we didn't get it.

BLOCK: You know, I have to say, when we were having all that rain with the tropical storms a little while back, you really just wanted to put it in a big pipeline and send it down your way.

REAGOR: We needed it. We were really, really hoping and praying that somehow it would turn to the west and come right up in here to the Texas hill country and stay a few days. But it didn't.

BLOCK: Well, Mayor Reagor, we wish you all the best. Thanks so much for talking to us.

REAGOR: Oh, thank you.

BLOCK: That's Mike Reagor. He's the mayor of Llano, Texas.

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