The cycle of extremes is also exacerbating existing environmental stresses. In the Texas Panhandle, for example, the Ogallala Aquifer that feeds much of the region is virtually impermeable, and recharges so slowly that it could take more than 6,000 years to fill up naturally if it were depleted. Nine years ago, during the 2011 drought, the demand for water was lower, and the aquifer itself held more water, Bell says. But today, as droughts become longer and more intense— and as the demand for water is driven up by a growing population— that’s no longer true. Cotton crops are drought tolerant, but the uncertainty of spring rains, summer droughts, and fall freezes might require farmers to shift towards other crops in order to stay profitable.