Current drought conditions, which have led to extremely low inflows to the Highland Lakes, prompted the Lower Colorado River Authority to curtail second-season downstream water releases for agriculture purposes. The decision is based on the current Water Management Plan. LCRA graph
Water from the Highland Lakes will not be available for the second agricultural growing season downstream, the Lower Colorado River Authority announced July 2. Also, Highland Lakes municipalities, including the cities of Marble Falls and Horseshoe Bay, are being asked to conserve water usage by 5 percent overall.
“This is a serious drought,” said LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann in a statement. “We have plenty of drinking water supplies available in the Highland Lakes, but we need to start tapping the brakes on water use because we don’t know when this drought will end.”
The LCRA determines curtailment of interruptible water as of July 1 each year for the second growing season, which is typically mid-August though mid-October. Considered are water levels of lakes Buchanan and Travis and the duration and intensity of an existing drought.
The LCRA will continue to provide water for the first season allocation for interruptible customers finishing up their first crop of the year.
“The is how the Water Management Plan was designed to work,” Hofmann said. “It allows LCRA to react quickly to changing conditions.”
Previously, the LCRA determined water availability at the beginning of the year and applied results to both growing seasons.
“Now, we make the determination for the second growing season in the middle of the year, closer to the start of the second season,” Hofmann continued. “This approach better protects water supplies for cities and industries.”
A determination for the first growing season is made March 1.
Rainfall in the Texas Hill Country since October 2021 has been well below average with only 5-10 inches of rain recorded. The amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes from January through June is the lowest on record for that six-month period.
Water flow into lakes Buchanan and Travis for June was about 4 percent of the historical average for the month. Those two reservoirs, which are water storage lakes, are 63 percent full with about 1.3 million acre-feet of water combined. An acre-foot is equivalent to approximately 325,851 gallons.
No relief for the lakes is expected anytime soon. The U.S. Drought Monitor considers the watershed that feeds the Highland Lakes to be in extreme drought. Lakes Travis and Buchanan water supplies will continue to decline through the summer, according to LCRA officials.
Recent scattered showers brought temporary relief but weren’t enough to do much good in terms of water supply, Hofmann said.
“We have been extremely hot and dry since late last year, which means evaporation is up and customers are using more water,” he said. “Those factors, combined with the scarce amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes since last fall, has caused lake levels to drop.”
In the short term, Highland Lakes residents shouldn’t expect any relief as the National Weather Service predicted high temperatures in the triple digits throughout the rest of the week and into the weekend with no rain in sight, according to LCRA meteorologist Bob Rose.
“Longer-range forecasts looking out into the week of July 11 call for few, if any, changes through the first half of the week,” Rose wrote in his weather blog. “We may see more of a Gulf influence the second half of the week as the ridge is predicted to shift to the southeastern U.S. Little change in the temperature is forecast.”