Can Austin Withstand Multiyear Drought?

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 12, 2011

Dear Editor,
    When my brother and I grew up in the '50s during the drought, one of the things that our teachers tried to impress on us in school was that Austin sits on the edge of desert, and sometimes it gets dry. At that time Austin was not even one-tenth the size it is today and the Lower Colorado River Authority had no real water demands to meet other than that of a few small towns along the banks of the Colorado River and of some downstream rice farmers.
    I have addressed one question to the City Council and city planning department. With the size of the city today and its growth policy to attract added business to the city, can the city today withstand a multiyear drought that compares to that of the drought of the 1950s?
    You may recall that in 2009 the Highlands Lakes was drawn down to the 40% level and that the only water program that the city seems to have is that of water restrictions. Every time I put the above question to the city, they pretended I never asked the question. A thinking person should realize that a water plan of restrictions will not add a drop to the water supply. I think that unless there is some plan to obtain additional water, it strikes me as insane to encourage added growth to the city and Highland Lakes dependent area if the area cannot meet high population water demands under extreme conditions that had visited us in the past.
    In that I assume that The Austin Chronicle is up to date on such issues, can you tell me if the city is able survive a protracted 1950s multiyear drought today without becoming a ghost town? When the Texas Water Development Board or the LCRA tells us that they have enough water to meet our demands for 100 or 60 years with restrictions, do they give us these projections from a hoped-for average yearly rainfall?
Thank you for your time,
Frank Berezovytch
   [News Editor Michael King responds: Alas, the Chronicle has no specialized knowledge nor predictive powers concerning long-term drought conditions.]
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