As a coda to yet another year of dreary drought, officials with the Lower Colorado River Authority announced this week that 2013 marked the second-lowest flow of river and stream water into the Highland Lakes on record.
Punctuating the point, federal authorities on Thursday declared Burnet, Llano, Lampasas and Travis counties as natural disaster areas due to drought, making farmers eligible for low-interest loans as they cope with their losses.
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Inflows to the Highland Lakes have set records in recent years:
Rank / Year / Inflow Volume (in acre-feet)
1 / 2011 / 127,802
2 / 2013 / 216,353
3 / 2008 / 284,462
4 / 2006 / 285,229
5 / 1963 / 392,589
6 / 2012 / 393,163
Why this matters
In a worst-case scenario if drought conditions persist, LCRA officials estimate that lakes Travis and Buchanan could fall to a combined 570,000 acre-feet by July 1, even if the authority refrains from releasing water for most farmers.
The LCRA has a 600,000 acre-feet trigger, under which the river authority could provide less water to cities around the region. For the area’s retail customers, that could mean further limits on watering lawns, washing cars and filling swimming pools.