"Streamflow Conditions above the Highland Lakes: In the Texas Hill Country, flow in the streams and tributaries above the Highland Lakes remains very low, and as a result the inflows to the lakes will continue to be minimal… Lake Conditions: As of 7:40 am (9/4/12), the level of Lake Buchanan is about 16.6 feet below its historic September average. The level of Lake Travis is about 29.45 feet below its historic September average. The total combined storage in the Highland Lakes two water storage reservoirs, Buchanan and Travis, is at 894,000 acre-feet, or 45 percent of capacity." Read that full report here.Thank goodness for the intermittent rains Austin has had this summer, but it hasn't been enough to shore up the gap from 2011. Remember when Texas was all tinder last Summer? If you'd like reminding, most of Austin's news networks did special reports on the Labor Day fires of 2011 this weekend, "one year later." For example, check out Forged in Flames from KUT/StateImpact.
|Image from the LCRA / U.S. Drought Monitor.|
According to the US Drought Monitor, Austin was hanging out between Stage 1 & Stage 2 drought conditions at the end of August. About 39% of our state is in Stage 3 drought or worse (there are 5 stages). This time last yeat 99% of the state was in Stage 3 or worse. The US Drought Monitor updates its reporting every 7 days or so, and you can see those reports online; very easy to understand.
Texas rivers expert Andy Sansom said in a presentation last night he's surprised we haven't had a major flooding event recently in the Austin area, as average precipitation remains constant but our rain events are grouping more and more into extreme storms, as is projected under extreme climate change scenarios.
According to the LCRA, September's rainfall forecast for CenTex is "to be below normal."
All of the above info matches climate change modeling for our area. Many eco pros, such as Sansom, are now openly talking about Austin's future climate transforming into something more akin to San Angelo than Los Angeles during the next few decades. for what it's worth, i think that transformation will occur quicker than they're willing to acknowledge. San Angelo is a pretty little town about 4 hours west of Austin, which gets 20 to 21"" of rainfall per year. Austin's current avg. rainfall is 34.5".
Look Out, It's "TMI" Sansom made several interesting opening remarks at last night's presentation:
- That statewide, the Texas Legislature has already allocated more water than is currently in our rivers, reservoirs, and other water resources over the next several decades (again, note: precipitation cycles and therefore water storage are changing dramatically, not in our favor).
- Texas's population is expected to double over the next few decades, assuming there's enough water to go around. Water shortages will of course have a negative impact on the current economic growth model.
- The Texas State Water Plan costs $53 Billion (whoah) and is not adequate for meeting future water needs as it focuses on "building" our way out of a future crisis rather than addressing current infrastructure shortfalls at the municipal and working within natural water supply limitations
- Texas's municipal water delivery systems waste an average of 25% of total water supply due to line loss; there are communities within 30 miles of Austin losing 50% of total water supply to line loss today. (A significant portion of Austin's plumbing is out of date.)
- Without termendously more significant land conservation efforts, statewide, much of our natural water systems will continue to be comprised by property rights and pollution; by contrast New York City did a smart thing when it secured hundreds of acres of water rights about 100 years ago.