Highland Lakes can expect little relief from drought this summer

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MARBLE FALLS — Despite some spring and early summer rains this year, officials aren’t predicting much beneficial precipitation in the next several months, only a prolonged drought.

For the Highland Lakes, it translates into possible lower lake levels for the two water storage reservoirs, lakes Travis and Buchanan. And from where the two water bodies are starting the summer, it’s not dire, but it’s not great either.

“We’re not going to run out of water, but everyone needs to understand that this is a serious situation,” said Becky Motal, Lower Colorado River Authority general manager. “It’s going to take a significant amount of rain over an extended period of time to refill our lakes. We don’t know when that will happen, so it’s critical that everyone follow the watering restrictions put in place by their local water providers and conserve water wherever and whenever they can.”

As of June 24, the combined storage of Buchanan and Travis stood at 38 percent full. The two lakes hold just less than 770,000 acre-feet of water and need more than 1 million acre-feet to fill up, according to the LCRA.

An acre-foot is about 325,000 gallons of water.

As the region slips into summer, officials said forecasts predict a long, hot one.

While the Central Texas area experienced some spring rainfalls, LCRA officials pointed out much of it fell outside the upper Highland Lakes watershed that feeds into lakes Buchanan and Travis.

This all equates to low inflows into the lakes from rivers and streams. Though 2013 is only half over, the inflows are tracking similar to those in 2011, when they hit an all-time low. Though 2012 was a little better, the inflows still marked the fifth lowest ever.

Because of the drought, the LCRA cut off Highland Lakes water releases to most downstream farmers two years in a row, 2012 and 2013. It’s the first time in the authority’s and the reservoirs’ histories the cut-off has occurred.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the Highland Lakes remains under a severe drought. The National Weather Service Climate Predictor has the drought remaining (possibly intensifying) through the summer in the Highland Lakes.

But weather officials said an active hurricane season could bring some relief but also possible damage.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an “active or extremely active season this year.”

For more information on the drought or water conservation, go to www.lcra.org.

editor@thepicayune.com