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Texas could see California megadroughts, conservationist warns

Lake Buchanan

Lake Buchanan is the 'mother lake,' according to Jo Karr Tedder, president of the Central Texas Water Coalition. 'If you don’t have water in that lake, you’re not going to have anything going all the way down.' Tedder spoke to the Marble Falls City Council on March 15 about the importance of conserving water in the face of predicted 'megadroughts' in the state. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Conserving water in the Highland Lakes is becoming increasingly important as temperatures continue to rise and extreme droughts are expected in the future. Central Texas Water Coalition President Jo Karr Tedder presented information on the issue as well as its impact on local water supplies during a Marble Falls City Council meeting Tuesday, March 15.  

“You cannot continue to use water the way you always have used it,” Tedder said. “Everyone has to get more serious about conservation and the way the water is used.” 

Founded in 2011, the Central Texas Water Coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for and protecting water resources in Central Texas counties, including Burnet, Llano, and Williamson. The coalition lobbies for water-conscious legislation and monitors actions taken by organizations such as the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Lower Colorado Regional Water Planning Group (Region K).

In recent years, the drought line in the United States has slowly shifted east of the 100th meridian west, the longitudinal line that runs through the exact middle of the country, Tedder said. Additionally, a 2020 study conducted by Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon and other researchers and scientists predicts severe droughts in the state over the next 25 years.

“They’re going to be called megadroughts, which is what California is experiencing right now,” Tedder explained. “Hopefully, we can learn what not to do by what’s happening with them.” 

Severe droughts could result in an increase in wildfires and the need to limit local water consumption. Tedder also said 2021 was the fourth-hottest year in recorded Texas history between now and 1880, with temperatures matching record highs over the past seven years.

According to an LCRA chart outlining water level projections for Lake Buchanan to September of this year, the lake should be at 1,018 feet above mean sea level in March. Levels are predicted to drop to about 1,000 feet msl if the summer months experience dry conditions. The LCRA reported that water levels near Lake Buchanan Dam were 1,015.1 feet msl as of 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, March 16. 

Potential lack of rainfall caused by droughts could contribute to the predicted negative trends, Tedder said. 

“You don’t know where rain is going to fall or if it’s going to fall,” she explained. “So, even though we have as much rainfall as we’ve ever had, if you look at the amount of rainfall across the spectrum, it’s not coming down in Lake Buchanan. Lake LBJ is usually a little luckier because you have the Llano River and it flows down into it, but Buchanan is the mother lake. If you don’t have water in that lake, you’re not going to have anything going all the way down.”  

Councilor Reed Norman expressed concerns related to population growth in the area, noting that an influx of housing developments and businesses could strain local water sources. 

“It concerns me that it seems like we’re all good right now, but I see a storm coming and I don’t mean a raincloud,” he said. 

Norman asked if the city had the ability to encourage Marble Falls residents to limit the amount of water they use at home.  

“We can give people incentives for using xeriscape,” Councilor Dave Rhodes said. “That’s something that we can do. I don’t want to be punitive, but we can give them a positive (option).” 

Tedder agreed and also encouraged residents to begin harvesting rainwater for reuse. 

“Eventually, Texas is going to be like Colorado,” she said. “If (rain) falls from the sky in the state of Colorado, it belongs to the state. Now, if you go ahead and put in rainwater harvesting, you’ll be grandfathered when (that happens).”

More information about the Central Texas Water Coalition, including conservation tips, is available online

Also during the meeting, the City Council appointed Charli Tavera and Sam Bhakta to serve on the Hotel Motel Tax Advisory Commission.

brigid@thepicayune.com

1 thought on “Texas could see California megadroughts, conservationist warns

  1. No mention of Arbuckle Reservoir? We voted on and were told that Arbuckle Reservoir would greatly reduce rice farmer demand on Lake Buchanan.

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