August inflows lowest for 2014 as drought continues
Highland Lakes combined storage falls over summer months
Widely scattered rain in August fell in the Highland Lakes watershed, but much of it soaked into dry ground and very little made it to the lakes. August inflows – the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes from rivers and streams – were extremely low, at just more than 4,000 acre-feet, the lowest monthly total of the year. August inflows were a dismal 6.9 percent of the August average. Even at that low level, though, the August 2014 inflows were higher than each of the previous three Augusts.
With temperatures often topping 100 degrees, both water use and evaporation generally rise substantially in August, which typically has the lowest inflows of the year.
Combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis, the region's water reservoirs, fell from 766,535 acre-feet on Aug. 1 to 691,136 acre-feet on Sept. 12. Lakes Buchanan and Travis now are 34 percent of capacity.
Should combined storage drop below 600,000 acre-feet, 30 percent of capacity, the LCRA Board 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.
LCRA projects the earliest combined storage could drop below 600,000 acre-feet is December 2014 or January 2015.
Though lake levels are low, the Highland Lakes are doing exactly what they were designed to do – capture 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 throughout the lower Colorado River basin. The lakes fill when plentiful rain falls in their watersheds. Lake levels fall because of customer use and evaporation.
Inflows have been at or near historic lows for an extended period of time during this drought:
- January through August 2014 inflows were about 152,000 acre-feet, the fourth lowest on record for that eight-month period.
- Inflows from January through April 2014 were the lowest on record for that four-month period.
- The lowest annual inflows in history occurred in 2011, with only about 10 percent of the annual average.
- The second lowest inflows in history were in 2013.
- The third lowest inflows in history were in 2008.
- The sixth lowest inflows in history were in 2012.
- The ninth lowest inflows in history were in 2009.
LCRA has been working aggressively to conserve water and expand the water supply during the drought. With permission from the state, LCRA 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.
LCRA is pursuing a new reservoir in Wharton County, drilling groundwater wells on its property in Bastrop County and investigating other potential projects to add new water supplies.