Despite rain, Texas on track for worst drought on record
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Rice producer Billy Mann remembers the worst Texas drought ever, but he was a teenager then.
"We didn't have the population. You know, Austin was just a small town,” he said. “There are a lot of towns that are huge towns now. We’re just a dot on the map."
Now, about one million people get their water from the Highland Lakes, and they're drying up. Since the drought is continuing, it means for the second consecutive year, LCRA probably won't release water for downstream farmers.
"None of us like the position that we're in, that we find ourselves in right now. We wish there was water for all the basin," LCRA Board of Directors Chairman Timothy Timmerman said.
The LCRA’s own projections show even normal rainfall won't help the lakes recover.
"We need an awful lot of rain in the next two months in order for there to be any amount of water available for release downstream," LCRA General Manger Becky Motal said.
Water flowing into the Highland Lakes was even lower in 2012 than the dry year before, and six out of the last seven years have seen some of the lowest inflows ever recorded.
"The fact that we've had to do an emergency drought two years in a row tells you that the planning that's currently in place is worthless," Jo Karr Tedder with the Central Texas Water Coalition said.
If dry weather continues, LCRA estimates it will be a "drought worse than drought of record" by June, even if farmers are cut off. Stakeholders are pushing to reduce reliance on lake water.
"There'll be years that we'll get some rain, but it is a long-term drought,” Tedder said. "We just have to change our mindset about how we deal with water."
LCRA is moving to find more water sources and create more storage.
"The off-channel reservoirs are a very, very good first step to diversify LCRA's water portfolio," Motal said."To the extent we can capture rain in another part of the basin, downstream, it's going to give us more options."
LCRA will consider building two off-channel lakes and acquiring new groundwater rights at their meeting next week.