STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
July’s inflows, only 1,726 acre-feet of water, were 2 percent of historic July averages. One acre-foot of water is equal to the amount of water in one acre of water at a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons.
The Lower Colorado River Authority has published a page on its website, lcra.org/riverforourregion, to highlight water issues in the Highland Lakes.
“Inflows into the Highland Lakes this year have been extremely low, but the Highland Lakes remain in excellent condition,” said LCRA public information officer Clara Tuma. “Despite months of hot weather and high evaporation, increased water use and near record-low inflows, storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan is still at 69 percent of capacity.”
The area has gone through a dry period from 2008 to 2015 that recorded just 42.6 percent of average yearly inflows from historic averages since 1942. Since 2006, eight of the 12 lowest annual inflow years have occurred. The lowest year for inflows was 2011 with just 127,802 acre-feet recorded.
“This dry period is part of the cycle we see in this area time and again as the region goes from droughts to floods and back to droughts again. Lakes Travis and Buchanan, the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes system, were designed to fluctuate, capturing water during rainy times and holding the water for use during drier times,” Tuma said. “This is exactly what they are doing now.”
Through July of this year, the Highland Lakes have recorded 96,885 acre-feet of inflows. Inflows in 2017 were 429,959 acre-feet, making it the eighth-lowest year.
The Highland Lakes watershed covers a 14,700-square-mile area upstream of Austin. LCRA manages a 600-mile stretch of the lower Colorado River, which supplies water for more than 1.4 million users.
LCRA also is working on a couple projects to expand the region’s water supply. The Arbuckle Reservoir in Wharton County could add 90,000 acre-feet of water to the supply and is expected to begin operation in early 2019. The Prairie Conservation Reservoir in Colorado County includes a 2,000 acre-foot reservoir.
The LCRA’s latest water supply storage projections for the Highland Lakes look forward to February 2019. The forecast based on wet and median conditions show increases in storage. However, dry and extreme dry conditions for this winter could cause storage levels to drop to nearly 60 percent of capacity. View the LCRA water supply page for current information.