Highland Lakes continue to rise in early 2016
Lakes Travis and Buchanan continued to slowly rise in January even though the Texas Hill Country, including the watershed that feeds the Highland Lakes, saw below-average rainfall. The combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis – the region's water supply reservoirs – rose from 87 percent to 89 percent of capacity in January.
As of early February, Lake Travis stood about 9 feet above average, and Lake Buchanan was 2 feet above average.
The amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes in January was 43,703 acre-feet, about 68 percent of the monthly average and the highest January inflows since 2010. Inflows are the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes estimated from measurements at four gauges upstream of the lakes.
Since January 2015, Lake Travis has risen 54 feet, while Lake Buchanan has risen 26 feet.
"It's been an incredible year for the Highland Lakes," said John Hofmann, LCRA executive vice president of Water. "Thanks to a series of rain events, lakes Buchanan and Travis are up to almost 90 percent of capacity, compared to a year ago, when they were at just 35 percent. We're in a much better position in terms of water supply than we were at this time last year."
The Highland Lakes capture water when it rains to ensure the region has a reliable water supply during dry times. Lakes Travis and Buchanan provide drinking water for more than a million people and water to industries, businesses, the environment and agriculture in the lower Colorado River basin.
LCRA is managing lakes Travis and Buchanan under a new state-approved Water Management Plan. In November 2015, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the updated plan, which better protects the water supply for firm customers – mainly cities and industrial users – and enables LCRA to more quickly adapt its operations as drought conditions change.
LCRA anticipates Highland Lakes water will be available for interruptible water users in 2016 for the first time since 2011. Under the 2015 Water Management Plan, up to 202,000 acre-feet of interruptible stored water, which is mostly used for agriculture, could be available for the first crop growing season as early as mid-March.
In addition to water supply, the Highland Lakes also were built to help manage flooding along the Colorado River. During floods, LCRA operates the Highland Lakes dams to reduce flooding impacts on communities downstream of the lakes. Lake Travis is the only lake in the Highland Lakes chain specifically built to hold floodwaters. Even when considered full for water supply, Lake Travis can store an additional 787,000 acre-feet of water in its flood pool.