How low can it go? Tracking lake levels

How low can it go? That's the question on everyone's mind when it comes to Central Texas lakes.

AUSTIN -- Every day, KVUE Storm Team meteorologists monitor Central Texas lakes -- in particular, Buchanan and Travis. The current levels are some of the lowest on record, but this is not the lowest they've been.

In the early 1940s, Mansfield Dam was created to hold back flood waters, as well as a reservoir, Lake Travis. With water levels so low, increased population using the water and the state of the climate -- is there reason to worry?

John Hofmann, the executive vice president of water with the Lower Colorado River Authority said they are on top of it.

"Oh, we worry any time we are not full," Hofmann said. "That's our job, to worry when it's not full. People rely on LCRA to manage this water supply. In terms of worry, we plan for this, this is what we do."

Stage two water restrictions have been in place for years, allowing Central Texans to water their lawns only once a week. This is where a bulk of the consumption and conservation comes from despite the increase in population.

"Well, it's an amazing fact that despite the type of population gains we've seen in the Austin metro area, Austin's water consumption has largely stayed flat," Hofmann said.

Even so, the lake levels remain low and could drop farther with a continuing drought.

"I do expect the drought to continue for the foreseeable future, until we get a lot of rain like what we are talking about," said climatologist Dr. John Nielsen Gammon.

Despite the current outlook, history has shown the biggest spark to quickly elevate water levels are large-scale rain events, such as the rain bomb in 2007 when Lake Travis rose by 50 feet in just a few days. However, if a large rain event does not happen and the drought prolongs, there's a backup plan: A new reservoir.

The LCRA recently broke ground on a new reservoir near Lane City in southeast Texas which will open in 2017 and will allow the Highland Lakes to retain more water, rather than sending additional support downstream.

But for now, "we have enough water," Hofmann said. "We don't have enough water to waste."


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