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Current drought conditions present double-edged sword for zebra mussels in Lake Travis

As water levels get lower, zebra mussels will dry out near the shore, but will be able to spread into previously inaccessible areas.

AUSTIN, Texas — For weeks, Central Texas lake levels have dropped because of increased temperatures and low rainfall. As water levels at Lake Travis get lower, zebra mussels will die out near the shore but have access to new areas of the lake.

"Lower lake levels caused by the drought provide both good and bad news for zebra mussels. As lake levels decline, many zebra mussels die as they become stranded in dry areas. At the same time, the remaining population is able to colonize new areas that become available to them as lake levels drop," the Lower Colorado River Authority said in a statement.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the invasive species first took hold in Lake Travis back in 2017. Since then, they have been impossible to get rid of.

RELATED: TPWD urging boaters to 'clean, drain and dry' to stop spread of invasive species

"It's all triage, it's mitigation," Monica McGarrity, a senior scientist with TPWD studying invasive species, said. "It's trying to prevent their impacts on the water infrastructure, on people's private water intakes, on your boats that you've got in the lake. And so, unfortunately, there really is nothing that can be done to eradicate them."

RELATED: Three Texas lakes designated as fully 'infested' with zebra mussels

While there may be nothing officials can do to kill off all the zebra mussels, McGarrity advised neighbors at Lake Travis can still help slow their spread.

"One unfortunate side effect may be that there will be an unpleasant smell and unpleasant odor from the mussels," McGarrity said. "People who do live along the shorelines are allowed to scrape off and remove those mussels at that, like as long as they black bag them for transport for disposal."

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