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TROUBLED WATERS: ‘Get ready’ for lifetime droughts, warn experts

Town hall on Highland Lakes water

About 40 people attended a town hall Aug. 23 hosted by the Central Texas Water Coalition, which included presentations from organization President Jo Karr Tedder and Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District General Manager Mitchell Sodek. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Around 40 people attended a town hall meeting hosted by the Central Texas Water Coalition on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Hill Country Hall in Buchanan Dam over concerns about the Lower Colorado River Authority’s water management plan. 

The plan, which was adopted in 2020 and up for review in 2025, should be updated with current drought and weather information, said coalition President Jo Karr Tedder, who made the first of two presentations during the evening. The second presentation was by Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District General Manager Mitchell Sodek, who gave a brief update on the current state of groundwater levels across Burnet County.

Tedder showed images of the current conditions of several Highland Lakes juxtaposed with photos of what those lakes look like at regular water levels. 

“Our focus is to have a more protective water plan for Central Texas,” she said. “It’s what it’s always been from day one.”

Tedder talked about California’s longtime drought to illustrate what could happen to Central Texas if, in the coalition’s opinion, the LCRA fails to act on the rapidly decreasing water levels throughout the area.

“I use California because they’ve been in a mega-drought for 22 years,” she said. “We’ve been in a drought. It goes three years, four years, and then it tapers off. That’s not what is happening now. John Nielsen-Gammon, a state climatologist, said ‘Get ready, because your droughts are going to start being droughts that last your lifetime.’”

Lake Buchanan drought
LEFT: Jay Henderson of Tow took this photo of a favorite fishing spot on Lake Buchanan on Aug. 17, 2021. RIGHT: He returned to the same spot on Aug. 19, 2022, to find nothing but a dry lakebed. Photos by Jay Henderson

During Sodek’s presentation on the state of groundwater in the area, he reminded the audience that Burnet County is currently in the worse phase of its drought management plan, which is Stage 4. Groundwater users, whether well water or cities, are being asked to voluntarily restrict their usage by 30 percent. 

“We are managing for droughts,” Sodek said. “We’re not asking for any mandatory restrictions. We are asking people to conserve water.”

While the area has seen rain in recent days, Sodek is doubtful it will be enough to buck the current downward trend of groundwater levels in the area.

“I don’t think it will improve based on the rainfall that we have had,” he said. “I certainly don’t think our groundwater levels will improve unless we get significantly more rain.”

Tedder opened the meeting to public discussion, urging residents to bring the fight to the LCRA by going to board meetings and writing emails to the authority and elected officials, even if speaking about water might be difficult for some to articulate.

“Your elected officials have the ability to make a difference,” Tedder said. “It’s not always a comfortable thing to speak up about water because it’s so complicated. We still have to make them look at the water management plan and make it more protective.”

The Central Texas Water Coalition will hold another town hall at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Oasis on Lake Travis, 6550 Comanche Trail in Austin.

2 thoughts on “TROUBLED WATERS: ‘Get ready’ for lifetime droughts, warn experts

  1. I believe Texas needs to manage growth better. Quit letting every contractor and/or company with deep pockets build everywhere. I know people think this is a free country but we need to understand that with the current growth rate along with global warming it is putting a severe strain on all of our resources especially water. Those of you that have lived here for many years can remember the trip down highway 71 to Austin and how pleasurable it used to be. Now with all the subdivisions it has created too much traffic, traffic lights every half mile (maybe a little exaggeration), and reduction in speed limits. What used to take an hour now takes 1.5 hours. All those extra people and all those extra homes require water. I’m just saying.

  2. Oh no !! More fearmongering but some can perhaps learn to realize the ppl are tired of all the fear stuff, and that fearmongering is not the only language that’s available to have people learn to conserve resources. This example is right in the backyard: I’ve been around these parts a while and the residents aren’t children who need fear as motivation. Besides, “lifetime drought” depends on how long ya live. And, the “old” ppl don’t care much. What ya really wanna “scare” are the children, because the word lifetime means more to them. So do it in kindergarten, not to Adults, cuz we all just laugh at ya all. Sick. Fearmongering. Primitive. weak.

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