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LCRA lowers drought stage, but summer conservation still vital

Lake Buchanan has a higher, greener shoreline than it did in 2023 thanks to recent heavy rainfall across the upper Colorado River Basin. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Lower Colorado River Authority officially reduced its drought stage from Stage 2 to Stage 1 on Monday, June 3, after recent rains replenished Highland Lakes reservoirs. With the change, LCRA customers are under more relaxed restrictions, but the authority’s leadership is asking for continued conservation through the summer.

Heavy rains in the spring and increased flows in the Colorado River watershed brought the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis from 42 percent on May 1 to 56 percent as of Monday. According to the LCRA’s drought management plan, Stage 2 restrictions are lifted once the combined storage of the two reservoirs reaches 55 percent, or 1.1 million acre-feet. Stage 2 conditions have been in effect since August 2023.

“These rains were welcome, and it’s good to see our water supply reservoirs at higher levels, but the reservoirs are still stressed from years of drought,” LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann said in a media release from the authority. “With summer right around the corner, we all need to continue using water wisely and cutting back on discretionary water use.”

Under Stage 1 restrictions, LCRA firm water customers, which are mostly cities, utility companies, and industrial customers, are asked to implement mandatory drought response measures and reduce overall water usage by 10 percent. If the combined storage of Buchanan and Travis reaches 1.2 million acre-feet, Stage 1 restrictions will be lifted, leaving no restrictions in place. The combined storage was at 1,116,634 acre-feet at 1:30 p.m. June 3, according to the LCRA’s River Operations Report.

Under the recent Stage 2 restrictions, firm water customers were subject to once-per-week outdoor watering schedules and asked to reduce water use by 20 percent.

While the drought stage has changed, Hofmann made it clear that the drought is not over. 

“We encourage everyone to cut back water use when possible,” he said. “We’re heading into another hot, dry summer when the amount of water in lakes Buchanan and Travis typically drops because of increased water use and evaporation.”

According to the release, 70 percent of residential water use in the summer is due to outdoor activities.

“We can’t control how much it rains or where it rains,” Hofmann said. “The only thing we can control is how much water we use, and each of us has a say in that. We especially can control how much water we put on our yards.”

dakota@thepicayune.com

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