Last week’s rain buys Central Texas a little more time


Last week’s heavy rains can be measured in more ways than inches and feet. They can also be measured in weeks.

The 2 to 5 inches of rain that fell in parts of the Hill Country amounts to a few weeks’ worth of water use trickling into Central Texas’ main reservoirs. That in turn means the most restrictive Central Texas water rules in living memory probably won’t take effect until some time in November, instead of as early as mid-October.

“It’s not a drought buster, but it’s definitely welcome,” Lower Colorado River Authority General Manager Becky Motal said in a statement.

The region’s main reservoirs, lakes Buchanan and Travis, are 33 percent full, according to the LCRA, which manages the lakes. The LCRA had predicted the lakes would dip below 30 percent full some time in October. When they hit a threshold just under 30 percent, the region will have surpassed the last measurement to consider the current drought to be the worst on record, surpassing the epic drought of the 1950s.

Entering the “drought of record” means additional water restrictions for much of the region.

Many Central Texas cities and water-distribution districts buy their water from the LCRA. When the current drought is declared the worst on record, the LCRA will tell its customers to cut back water use 20 percent from 2011 levels.

The requirement will affect communities differently. Some have already cut back. Some have not. Austin, thanks to its water-conservation policies, largely will be exempted from the 20 percent curtailment.

Even so, Austin water managers plan to enact additional restrictions when the region enters the drought of record. For instance, for 21 of the past 23 months, Austin has limited automatic lawn-watering systems to one-day-a-week use. On designated watering days, automatic sprinkler systems are allowed to operate between midnight and 5 a.m. and between 7 p.m. and midnight. When the LCRA declares the drought the worst on record, Austin will limit watering to one time a week, during either the morning or evening, according to the city’s water utility.

It’s not clear exactly when that will happen, assuming the area sees little rain in the coming weeks, though LCRA calculations point to some time in November. Water from the recent rains is still flowing into lakes Buchanan and Travis. By Tuesday, the combined storage of Buchanan and Travis had reached 657,642 acre-feet, “up from 637,300 acre-feet early Friday,” according to an LCRA release. The rains added the equivalent of the water used by 6,780 typical Central Texas homes use in a year.

But that rainfall is a relatively small drop in the Central Texas bucket. Lake Travis was full in spring 2010, a time when Buchanan was nearly full as well. Before the recent rains, they were 31.7 percent full. As of Tuesday afternoon they were 32.7 percent full.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Senate committee to hear bill requiring voter approval for annexations
Senate committee to hear bill requiring voter approval for annexations

A Texas Senate committee on Sunday is considering a bill that would require voter approval for Texas’ largest cities to annex surrounding lands. Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would require cities with populations greater than 500,000, including Austin, to get voter approval from many annexation areas before incorporating...
WEATHER: Temperature could reach 103 degrees Sunday, chance of rain
WEATHER: Temperature could reach 103 degrees Sunday, chance of rain

Central Texas is in for a sweltering Sunday with highs in the high 90s to low 100s expected across the region according to the National Weather Service. The high in Austin is expected to reach 103 degrees this afternoon with a heat index as high as 107 degrees. The Austin area faces a 30 percent chance of showers Sunday, the likelihood of rain dropping...
8 found dead, 28 injured inside semi-trailer at Texas Walmart
8 found dead, 28 injured inside semi-trailer at Texas Walmart

Multiple people were found dead early Sunday inside a semi-trailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart.
Feds cut millions in funds to Texas teen pregnancy prevention programs
Feds cut millions in funds to Texas teen pregnancy prevention programs

The notice came to Jenifer DeAtley quietly, without warning, in the form of yet-to-be-explained letters from the federal government that said $4.6 million in funding over the next four years for her organization’s sex education programming was being eliminated. The director of EngenderHealth, which runs teen pregnancy prevention programs at three...
Traffic report for July 24, 2017

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The ramps in both directions to eastbound U.S. 290 will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night; detour to the access road. Alternating lane closures on the access roads in both directions across Walnut Creek from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night. Reduced to one northbound lane between Corral Lane and Teri Road from...
More Stories