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Agriculture Today

Historic drought likely to continue

Historic drought likely to continue

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July 3, 2013
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As the region heads into what is forecast to be a hot, dry summer, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), in a June 24 press release, is reminding residents that Central Texas is still in the grasp of a severe drought and that everyone needs to do their part to conserve and use water wisely.

Because of the extended period of dry weather, the amount of water flowing into lakes Travis and Buchanan, called inflows, has been reduced to record-low levels for several years.

The lakes serve as reservoirs for more than a million Central Texans and businesses and industries throughout the lower Colorado River basin. The combined storage of both stands at 38 percent full, and weather forecasts hold little hope of significant relief in the near future.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan currently hold slightly less than 770,000 acre-feet of water and need more than 1 million acre-feet to fill up. That’s about the amount of water added to the lakes in summer 2007, when 19 inches of rain fell on Marble Falls in one night.

In order for rain to fill the Highland Lakes, it must fall upstream of Austin and in the lakes’ watersheds. These are the areas that drain into the lakes, usually through a network of rivers and streams. During a severe drought like the current one, there must be enough rain to saturate the ground and fill the low spots in creek and riverbeds before water can begin flowing into the Highland Lakes.

For example, the rainstorms in late May, which flooded some Austin streets for a short period of time, added only about 10,000 acre-feet to lakes Travis and Buchanan because much of the rain fell outside the lakes’ watersheds.

Because of the drought, inflows from the rivers and streams that feed the lake:

•Hit an all-time low in 2011;

•Were the fifth lowest ever in 2012; and

•Are about the same in 2013 as they were this time of the year in 2011.

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