Water officials expect cooler, wetter summer weather for Central Texas Lakes

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According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, recent rains broke record low water levels at Lake Travis after two years of drought. Officials said Wednesday that a wetter summer could help alleviate the situation, but that water restriction will remain in place (Photo courtesy of Lower Colorado River Authority).

Central Texas lakes are in better shape than they were a year ago, and forecasts predict a cooler, wetter summer than last year, according to Lower Colorado River Authority officials.

The LCRA, which regulates the water supply of Lakes Travis, Buchanan and other reservoirs in the lower Colorado River basin, known as the Highland Lakes, hosted a Meteorologists Day on Wednesday at the agency’s Lake Austin Boulevard facility. LCRA officials presented their predictions regarding weather and lake levels this summer.

David Walker, supervisor of LCRA river management, said the wet weather during the past three months broke a two-year streak of below average inflows to the lakes, but the river authority still anticipates that mandatory water restrictions will go into effect this summer.

“There is tremendous variability in the amount of water that comes into our system,” Walker said. “Our water supply is totally dependent on the weather.”

LCRA general manager Becky Motal said spring rains did not benefit the water level of the Highland Lakes because they fell downstream of Lakes Travis and Buchanan. If the authority can devise ways to capture and store some of that surplus water, less water would be needed from the Highland Lakes and their water levels could rise, she said.

“This year alone we have had 600,000 cubic feet of excess water downstream of the Highland Lakes,” she said. “We’re looking at off-channel reservoirs to capture that water. We want to supplement agriculture with that water so we do not have to take it out of the Highland Lakes.”

Those off-channel reservoirs might be many small ponds or gravel pits that would hold water pumped from the Colorado River, Motal said.

Bob Rose, LCRA chief meteorologist, said he forecasts a summer with more rain and less heat than last year’s. Climate conditions including soil moisture and ocean temperatures differ from what they were a year ago, he said.

“The gulf is much warmer than it was last year,” Rose said. “In the Atlantic, we’re seeing more cooling.”

Taking those conditions into account, Rose said Texas will probably not fall victim to the pattern of high pressure that made Texas extremely dry and hot last summer.

“The large area of high pressure that sat on us last year is going to sit on Colorado or Kansas,” Rose said. “Without the high sitting right on top of us, we’re not going to have a repeat of last summer.”

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: Cooler, wetter weather may aid lake levels this summer