Lake levels continued upward climb in June
Storms with heavy rain moved across Lake Buchanan's watershed the week of July 6 and added 8 feet to the level of Lake Buchanan by July 14.
The increases to the region's water supply reservoirs – lakes Buchanan and Travis – in July added to the boost in June from El Niño and Tropical Storm Bill. In June, Lake Travis rose about 5 feet, while Lake Buchanan came up more than 2 feet.
Even with increased lake levels, lakes Buchanan and Travis have not fully recovered from the current drought. On July 1, the amount of water in lakes Buchanan and Travis stood at 71 percent of capacity, or 1.4 million acre-feet. Thanks largely to increases in Lake Buchanan, the combined storage rose to 1.5 million acre-feet, or 77 percent of capacity, on July 13. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.
"The rain this spring has helped our reservoirs significantly," said John Hofmann, executive vice president of Water. "But we remain cautious. Only time will tell if the recent rain is a brief respite from this historically severe drought, or if the El Niño pattern has broken the extreme dry cycle of the last several years. We're certainly hopeful the dry cycle is broken, but we are well aware we are going into what is typically the hottest, driest time of the year, and the rainy weather may not continue."
Inflows in June were below average and were far below the impressive amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes from streams and tributaries from flooding rain in May. June inflows totaled 98,722 acre-feet – about 61 percent of the June average – compared to about 400,000 acre-feet, or almost double the May average the month before.
The Highland Lakes are doing what they were designed to do. The lakes capture water when it rains to ensure the region has a reliable water supply during times of drought. Lakes Travis and Buchanan provide drinking water to more than a million people and water to industries, businesses, the environment and, when enough water is available, agriculture in the lower Colorado River basin.
In order to preserve the water supply during the drought, LCRA requested
emergency drought relief from the state to cut off Highland Lakes water to most interruptible water customers in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted LCRA's most recent request on July 1, extending the emergency relief through Oct. 15.
LCRA also is increasing the water supply for the region by building the first new water supply reservoir in the lower Colorado River basin in decades. The
Lane City Reservoir is the first project that will allow LCRA to capture and store significant amounts of water downstream of the Highland Lakes. The reservoir could add up to 90,000 acre-feet per year to LCRA's water inventory and is expected to be completed in 2018. The new reservoir will help reduce the amount of water that otherwise would be required to be released from the Highland Lakes.