Nature can replenish quickly what it has depleted. The weekend’s heavy rain offered a hint of this simple truth.
But only a hint. The weekend’s rain, as welcome and as substantial as it was, wasn’t the drought-busting stuff of Central Texans’ dreams. Absent periodic, significant rain over the next several months, the relief brought by the weekend’s rain will mark a temporary reprieve for lakes headed toward historic lows.
Such is the state of our weather that steady, gentle rains do not fall regularly. Instead, significant rain tends to come in occasional deluges, and that means flooded homes, damaged businesses, closed roads and power outages. As they always do, emergency crews rose to meet life-saving challenges caused by this weekend’s flooding with courage. They braved rising water to rescue people threatened by floodwaters and save stranded motorists. For some drivers, the simple and obvious lesson about the power of rising water is one that never seems to take.
This weekend’s rain coincided with the second weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and forced organizers to cancel the festival’s final day Sunday. The financial hit to organizers and vendors still is being tallied.
The rain that fell this weekend was off target slightly to benefit Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis to the drought-breaking extend needed. The Lower Colorado River Authority reported Monday that Lake Travis had risen about two feet since the rain began Saturday night, and could possibly rise another foot. Lake Buchanan, meanwhile, was up only an inch or two.
The two lakes primarily supply the region’s water. While they remained dozens of feet below their average levels, their combined storage capacity increased from 33 percent Saturday to 34 percent Monday afternoon, according to the LCRA. In a region where every drop of water counts, we most certainly will take it.
The last time Central Texas saw rainfall as significant as this weekend’s was in September 2010 when Tropical Storm Hermine dumped 10 to 12 inches over the area. Light rain fell Monday morning and afternoon, and the National Weather Service said it was possible up to 4 inches of additional rain could fall Tuesday into Wednesday. The rain should mean more water for the lakes. Unfortunately, with the ground as saturated as it is, additional rain also could produce new flooding.
Water and the management of it will be on the ballot Nov. 5, when voters will be asked to decide the fate of Proposition 6. The proposed Texas constitutional amendment would give the state the authority to take $2 billion from the rainy day fund to create a revolving, low-interest loan program. The money would help local and regional governments and other entities leverage financing to build reservoirs, pipelines, desalination plants and other water supply projects. The goal is increase the state’s water supply to alleviate future water shortages.
As for the Highland Lakes, they are experiencing conditions that possibly could become commonplace over the next few decades. The generation of Texans that built the dams in the 1930s and 1940s to control flooding along the Colorado River couldn’t have foreseen the region’s booming population growth or the predicted change in climate toward hotter, drier decades to come. Central Texans slowly are learning that they should never again take the lakes for granted.
If this current round of rain miraculously had filled Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis, it would be a mistake to think of the lakes as full. As we’ve written before, the lakes start falling the minute they stop rising.
We always appreciate the rain. When we learn to act as though we’re always approaching drought, even when we’re not in drought, we also will have learned to appreciate our region’s water.