Scorched Earth

The driest season in more than a century hits Lake Travis

Lake Travis: The water gets lower as the weather gets hotter (click to enlarge)
Lake Travis: The water gets lower as the weather gets hotter (click to enlarge) (Photo courtesy of Lower Colorado River Authority)

High temperatures, low rainfall and persistent sunshine are what Texas is known for, but this is just ridiculous. Lake Travis is drying up at a rate of one foot each week and has already been marked at 23 feet below average for the month of June.

From October 2010 to May 2011, rainfall reached only 38 percent of the normal regional average. Not only that, but the region has faced record daily temperatures from March through May. Water flowing into Lake Travis cannot keep up with high evaporation rates due to extreme heat and public use.

The end result is that scattered sandbars and barren islands are beginning to spring up, leaving rocks and other obstacles which were submerged in nearly 25 feet of water just one year ago peaking over shallow waves. Only two public boat ramps remain usable.

The Lower Colorado River Authority has already asked water users to implement voluntary water restrictions. This is one of the first stages under the Drought Contingency Plan elements of its water management plan, designed to guarantee that LCRA can meet water needs for all its customers. If conditions persist, and they probably will, more restrictions will be imposed.

Even though some rainfall is expected this week, breathing easy is still not an option. It seems that it would take something just short of a biblical flood to redeem the lake. If officials can't get a handle on the water crisis, the only thing to splash around in this summer will be more sweat and tears.

Don't let Austin's summer go down the drain. Conserve water like the lake depended on it. After all, it does.

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Drought, LCRA, Lower Colorado River Authority, Rain, Lake Travis, Restrictions

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