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Highland Lakes Remain Leveled Off After a Long, Dry Summer

Reshma Kirpalani/KUT News
A view of Lake Travis and 'Sometimes Island,' a formation in Lake Travis that's visible when lake levels are low.

After an historic amount of rain this spring, as well as a hot and dry summer in Austin and across Central Texas, the Highland Lakes are looking good.

With August behind us and Labor Day here, the lakes combined are 75 percent full.

Storms and floods this spring brought devastation throughout Central Texas, but they also pulled the region’s reservoirs out of the worst of Texas’ longstanding drought. 

By July the Highland Lakes reservoirs were 78 percent full. Then came a hot dry August, and lake storage dropped three percent.  David Walker, manager of river operations at the Lower Colorado River Authority, says levels would have dropped more, but there were conservation policies in place to keep water in the lakes.

“A very small amount of any water of any kind has been released from the lakes for farming,” Walker says. “So we’ve really been able to throttle back on releases from Lake Travis from Tom Miller Dam to customers in the lower basin.”

Walker also says the lakes benefited from heavy rains along the Gulf Coast in August. Even though the rains never fell in Central Texas, the rain meant there was less need for water to be released downstream from the reservoirs.

Currently, Lake Travis is just about three feet above its historical average, while Lake Buchanan is barely five feet below its historical average, according to the LCRA.

Forecasters are predicting a wet fall season in Texas, and Walker says he’s cautiously optimistic that lake levels will start to rise again in the coming months. 

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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