Austin Public Health has reported that a Travis County resident died after developing an amebic meningitis infection. The person became ill after swimming in Lake LBJ in August.
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Lake LBJ and the other Highland Lakes remain open to recreation, but LCRA cautions the lakes are non-chlorinated, natural water bodies that may contain harmful ameba or bacteria. LCRA strongly recommends people take precautions to limit exposure by keeping their heads out of the water or covering their noses when jumping into the water, as the ameba enters the body through the nose.

The ameba that can cause an amebic meningitis infection thrives in warm water and is commonly found in fresh water. Though LCRA conducts water quality testing on the Highland Lakes, we do not monitor for the ameba that can cause amebic meningitis, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no routine and rapid test for the ameba. The CDC recommends that recreational water users always assume there is a risk for infection.

For more information, see the Aug. 30 notice from the Austin Public Health Department, the Texas Department of State Health Services Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis FAQs or the Centers for Disease Control Naegleria fowleri webpage.

See below for more water safety tips.

Whether you’re a person looking to get out on the water, an organization with lake-going guests or somewhere in between, staying safe on the water is everyone’s responsibility. Here’s what you need to know about water recreation and safety on the Highland Lakes and along the lower Colorado River.

Be aware

Save a life

Swim safely

  • Never swim alone.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Know when to call it quits. The distance from one object to another can be misleading.
  • The best lifejacket is the one you will wear. Find the U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket that works for you.
  • Swim in designated areas. LCRA Land and Water Use Regulations prohibit swimming within 50 feet of any public boat ramp on the Highland Lakes.
  • Swimming in a river or lake is always a risk. Unlike swimming pools, natural water bodies are not chlorinated or disinfected. Read more about primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Swimmers in the Highland Lakes should cover their noses when jumping into the water to reduce potential exposure to the Naegleria fowleri amoeba.

Boat responsibly

Check the status of your favorite boat ramps on the Highland Lakes and lakes Bastrop and Fayette. If you are using an unfamiliar ramp, watch for trees, rocks and sudden drop-offs.

Buoys and markers

Buoys and markers are water traffic signs offering direction and information. They also help identify dangerous areas and restricted zones.

Mile or channel markers are installed on the main channel of the Colorado River on lakes Buchanan, LBJ and Travis. The river channel is not marked on other Highland Lakes. Mile or channel markers are sequentially numbered starting at the dam and are spaced about a mile apart.

It is illegal to attach any watercraft to a buoy or marker, or to move, remove, displace, tamper with, damage or destroy any buoy or marker. To report problems with mile or channel markers or buoys, call LCRA Water Surface Management at 800-776-5272, ext. 4783.


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