Highland Lakes combined storage gets a mid-month bump
Inflows remain low in September as drought continues
A series of mid-September rainstorms added about 20,000 acre-feet to the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis, the region's water reservoirs. Lake Travis rose more than 2 feet, while Lake Buchanan rose a little more than half an inch.
The increase was welcome but relatively small, and it was not enough to make much difference in the severe drought gripping the region around the Highland Lakes.
Despite the rains, inflows - the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes from rivers and streams - measured in September at four locations upstream of the lakes remained very low. September inflows were just 12,683 acre-feet, or 12.5 percent of the average for September.
Inflows have been at or near historic lows for an extended period of time during this drought:
Combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis dropped from 709,070 acre-feet on Sept. 1 to 694,066 acre-feet on Oct. 9. Lakes Buchanan and Travis are about 34 percent of capacity.
Should combined storage drop below 600,000 acre-feet, or 30 percent of capacity, the LCRA Board of Directors will issue a Drought Worse Than the Drought of Record declaration. Following a state-approved plan, LCRA then would require cities, industries and other firm customers to reduce their water use by 20 percent from a baseline year, and would cut off all Highland Lakes water to interruptible customers.
Because of the mid-month rain and decrease in demand and evaporation this time of year, LCRA projects the earliest combined storage could drop below 600,000 acre-feet is next spring.
Though lake levels are low, the Highland Lakes are doing exactly what they were designed to do - capturing water when it rains to ensure the region has a reliable water supply during droughts such as this one.
Lakes Travis and Buchanan provide drinking water to more than a million people, and water to industries, businesses and the environment in the lower Colorado River basin.
LCRA has been working aggressively to conserve water and expand the water supply during the drought. With permission from the state, LCRA has cut off Highland Lakes water to most interruptible agricultural customers for three years in a row. LCRA also is requiring its firm customers to limit lawn and landscape watering to once a week in the communities they serve.
In September, the LCRA Board authorized construction of the Lane City Reservoir Project in Wharton County. The reservoir is expected to be complete in 2017. The off-channel reservoir will add about 90,000 acre-feet of firm supply.
LCRA also is drilling groundwater wells on its property in Bastrop County.