The record-breaking drought in Texas that has fueled wildfires, decimated crops, and forced the sale of cattle herds has also reduced levels of groundwater to the lowest levels observed in more than 63 years. Groundwater is moisture trapped in pores in the soil and in underground gaps in rock, often known as aquifers.

The map above depicts the amount of groundwater stored underground in the continental United States on November 28, 2011, as compared to the long-term average from 1948 to 2011. Deep reds reveal the most depletion, with deep blues representing aquifers and soils that are nearly full. The maroon shading over eastern Texas, for example, shows that the ground has been this dry less than two percent of the time between 1948 and the present.

At the end of November 2011, groundwater supplies were extremely depleted in more than half of Texas, as well as parts of New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. The northeastern states and the High Plains appear saturated with water heading into winter months.

Earth Observatory, November 2011