Recent rains benefit Highland Lakes, but not enough

New aerial footage shows extremely low water levels continue in Lake Travis (courtesy LCRA)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Highland lakes have risen considerably since the start of 2015 thanks to a wet end of winter and beginning of spring, according to Clara Tuma of the Lower Colorado River Authority. The lakes have been in drought for eight years. The LCRA reported in February 2015 that the current drought, even though it is not the longest, is the most drastic on record for the lakes.

Tuma mentions that Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis, the sources of water for the city of Austin, are only 38 percent full. Though Lake Travis has risen roughly a foot in the last week because of recent rains, this is not enough to truly benefit the lake, which is currently 40 feet below its historical April level. Tuma says that the lakes can be refilled in one of two ways: either by steady, soaking rains over time, or by one powerful post-tropical storm, which could refill the lakes in as little as 24 hours.

A view of the Highland Lakes Watershed. (Courtesy: LCRA)
A view of the Highland Lakes Watershed. (Courtesy: LCRA)

A quiet Atlantic hurricane season is anticipated this year, so the steady rains are the more likely of the two scenarios, with wetter than average predictions for the state of Texas during the first week of May. The wet spring in Central Texas in 2015 is adding moisture to the soil around the lakes, which saturates the ground. Ground saturation makes smaller rain systems more beneficial because surface run-off can happen more easily. Smaller systems can still pack a punch, though, as was the case with wind damage and power outages during Sunday night and Monday morning’s thunderstorms.

Rain in the Hill Country is what replenishes the lakes.

“We’re going to need to see rain out over the northwestern part of our Hill Country,” said John Hofmann of the LCRA. “We really need to see rain out in Fredericksburg. We need to see rain out in Llano and in Junction and Menard and San Saba and up towards Brownwood and places like that, where we’ve been getting at most about an inch and a half to two inches of rainfall, where we really need to rainfall events in the four- to five-inch range and several of those.”

The good news is that parts of the Hill Country received up to an inch of new rainfall in just the past 24 hours. May and June are historically the wettest months of the year, so more beneficial rains might be coming.

Here’s a look at Texas’ most recent Drought Monitor. KXAN’s viewing area is outlined.

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Check in with KXAN Weather for the latest on the forecast for all of Central Texas at any time of the day.

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