‘Be LakeWise’ on the Highland Lakes over the holiday weekend
LCRA shares tips for staying safe while having fun on the lakes
Aug. 31, 2023
“It’s fun to cool off in the lakes, especially during this sweltering heat wave, but it’s much more important to be safe,” said John Hofmann, LCRA executive vice president of Water. “We call that ‘Being LakeWise’ because being on a lake always carries a certain amount of risk, and people need to make smart decisions when deciding what to do and not do on the water.”
Conditions on lakes Buchanan and Travis, the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes, are considerably different from last Labor Day because of the ongoing drought. The lakes, which are designed to fluctuate, go up during rainy times and down during dry times as little water flows into the lakes and water use and evaporation increase.
Lake Buchanan is about 9 feet lower than it was last Labor Day, and Lake Travis is about 13 feet lower than a year ago.
LCRA advises people watch for buoys, channel markers and objects below the surface of the water such as debris, trees and rocks.
“The bottoms of the lakes are uneven, and you can go from being in knee deep water to more than 10 feet of water in just a step,” Hofmann said. “Levels in lakes Travis and Buchanan are lower because of the drought, but there are still areas that are more than 100 feet deep, which is one reason we recommend everyone on the lakes wear a life jacket.”
In addition, visitors to the lakes should take precautions to minimize their risk of infection from a harmful ameba. Austin Public Health announced Wednesday that a Travis County resident died recently of an amebic infection after swimming in Lake LBJ.
The Highland Lakes are non-chlorinated, natural water bodies. Naturally occurring ameba that can be harmful to humans thrive in warm water and may be present in the Highland Lakes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no routine and rapid test for the ameba and recommends that recreational water users always assume there is a risk of infection.
“Public health agencies say the ameba enters the body through the nose,” Hofmann said. “Don’t take a chance on becoming infected. Always keep your head above water, hold your nose or wear nose plugs when jumping into any lake.”
It is also a good idea to avoid drinking untreated lake water, which could contain naturally occurring bacteria or parasites.
Warm water also poses an increased risk for lake visitors to come into contact with potentially harmful algae.
LCRA recently detected toxic algae in Lake LBJ and Inks Lake and cautions that toxic algae may be present in other lakes as well. LCRA encourages people and pets to avoid contact with algae in the lakes, as it could be harmful if ingested.
“You can’t tell if algae are toxic by sight or smell, so our advice is to just stay away from it – don’t take a chance,” Hofmann said. “Toxic algae are harmful if ingested, which is why dogs are particularly at risk. Dogs will eat algae or lick algal material off their coats, and if the algae contain toxins, that can be very dangerous and even deadly.”
LCRA also recommends lake visitors Be LakeWise by:
- Wearing a life jacket, which is the No. 1 way to prevent drowning.
- Never swimming or boating alone, and swimming only in designated areas. There is safety in numbers, and everyone should keep an eye on people in their group. It only takes a second for someone to find themselves in trouble.
- Staying hydrated. Not drinking enough water in the hot Texas weather can cause people to become disoriented or make poor decisions.
- Knowing the boating rules and becoming familiar with the Texas Water Safety Act before heading to the lakes.
For more water safety tips, visit www.BeLakeWise.org.
About LCRAlcra.org.The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; providing a clean, reliable water supply; and offering outdoor adventures at more than 40 parks along the Colorado River from the Texas Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. LCRA and its employees are committed to fulfilling our mission to enhance the quality of life of the Texans we serve through water stewardship, energy and community service. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934 and receives no state appropriations. For more information, visit