Managing the Highland Lakes Through Drought

LCRA encourages everyone in the lower Colorado River basin to incorporate water conservation efforts into their daily lives as the region’s severe drought continues. Lakes Buchanan and Travis, the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes, are stressed by the current drought and conservation is needed to help protect and extend our water supplies. Read more about ways to use water wisely.

LCRA limits outdoor watering to once a week

LCRA is requiring cities, businesses, industries and others that purchase water from LCRA to limit outdoor watering of ornamental landscaped areas to no more than once a week until the drought eases. The restriction also applies to lakeside property owners who have contracts with LCRA to draw water directly from the Highland Lakes. The maximum once-a-week watering schedule, which was adopted by the LCRA Board of Directors in February 2024, will be triggered anytime the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis is below 900,000 acre-feet, or about 45% of capacity. The restriction will remain in effect until the combined storage increases to at least 1.1 million acre-feet. The new requirement is an amendment to LCRA’s Drought Contingency Plan for Firm Water Customers.

LCRA entered Stage 2 of its drought response in August 2023, when the amount of water in lakes Buchanan and Travis fell below 900,000 acre-feet. Read the Aug. 14, 2023, news release. In Stage 2, firm customers – mostly municipalities, water districts and industries – implement mandatory drought response measures with a target of reducing water use by 10%-20%. Each firm customer has its own drought contingency plan to determine how to cut back water use. Read the Feb. 21, 2024, news release.

Before entering Stage 1 of the DCP in July 2022 and under its state-approved Water Management Plan, LCRA cut off interruptible stored water from the Highland Lakes for most agricultural customers in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties for the second growing season in 2022 and all of 2023. Read the March 2, 2023, news release and more about LCRA’s water supply operations. LCRA will make the determination as to if water is available for these customers in 2024 on March 1.

Lake levels

How full are the lakes?

Lakes Buchanan and Travis are the two water supply reservoirs in the chain of Highland Lakes on the Colorado River northwest of Austin. They were designed to fluctuate, capturing water during rainy times and holding it for use when the weather turned drier. The lakes have provided a reliable water supply for Central Texas since Lake Travis was completed in the 1940s.

The last time lakes Buchanan and Travis were full was in July 2019.

Current conditions

River Operations Report
Daily report on routine water supply operations at the dams.

Inflows into lakes Buchanan and Travis (.pdf)
January inflows totaled 12,141 acre-feet, which is about 20% of the January historical average and about 33% of the January historical median.

Hydromet
Interactive map and reports on rainfall and more.

Lake levels
Current lake level information.

Basin streamflow summary
Current streamflow data in the basin.

Lake level projections

Lake Travis (.pdf)

Lake Buchanan (.pdf)

Combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis (.pdf)

Historical lake levels

Daily lake levels and combined storage (.pdf)

Lake Buchanan (.xls)

Inks Lake (.xls)

Lake LBJ (.xls)

Lake Marble Falls (.xls)

Lake Travis (.xls)

Lake Austin (.xls)

DROUGHT RESOURCES

WaterSmart
Water conservation tips and LCRA conservation programs.

Bob’s blog on Central Texas weather
Weather forecasts from LCRA’s chief meteorologist.

Water use restrictions
Links to LCRA customers’ watering schedules.

Drought.gov
Drought conditions in Texas from NOAA and NIDIS.

Water data for Texas
Drought dashboard from the Texas Water Development Board.

Drought in Texas
Information from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Texas A&M Forest Service
Information on burn bans, forecasted fire danger and drought.