Water is an ongoing concern in the Highland Lake region, and a series of events including the ongoing drought and large downstream releases of water by LCRA in 2011 have resulted in record low water levels on Lake Travis.
• Currently, the lake sits at 630 feet, which is approximately 39% full.
• Lake Travis is considered “full” at 681 feet and when levels reach beyond that, the LCRA looks into water releases to disperse the excess water throughout our communities.
• Resource for Lake Travis water information: www.lcra.org/water/water-supply/drought-update/pages/default.aspx
• Lake Travis water levels have fluctuated over its history with the historic low coming in at 614.2 feet on August 14th 1951. Current lake levels are the fourth lowest in the lake’s history. That said, a heavy rain can significantly impact the levels in a very short amount of time; in the past 30 days the water has risen 5 feet.
Acknowledging that the 2010 Water Management Plan was not sufficient for managing the issues magnified by drought, an emergency order that limits downstream releases of water was passed in January 2014 and extended in May 2014 in order to conserve water stored in Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis.
Short-term and long-term remedies are being pursued by Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis stakeholders including the Central Texas Water Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for and preserves the Highland Lake’s role as a natural resource and key part of the local economy. Current proposed changes to the water management plan provide for better drought management (see TCEQ recommendation here), including:
• A more responsive water management strategy with higher water reserve requirements in anticipation of droughts
• More detailed criteria for management of lake volumes and levels in normal and drought conditions
Had the proposed water management policy been employed in 2011, the 433,000 acre feet released downstream would have been halved, thus mitigating a significant portion of the decrease in lake levels.
The adoption of the proposed water management policies, in addition to the return of rains to Central Texas, would point to improved lake levels in the long term. In the meantime, Lake Travis levels hover around 630 feet, and homeowners, neighborhoods and marinas with deep water access continue to swim, ski, sail and fish on this beloved Texas lake.