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Exceptional Drought Spreads, Llano River Near Dry

A picture of the Llano River Bridge during its last drought in 2008.
Photo by kjoyner666
A picture of the Llano River Bridge during its last drought in 2008.

The city’s and county’s move to ban all fireworks, public and private, for the Fourth of July weekend seem like a bummer to some people, but when you examine at the local drought conditions, it’s hard to blame them.  The US Drought Monitor Map shows the entire region is in “exceptional” drought, which is the worst category they have.

But you don’t need the US Drought Monitor to tell you how dry it is outside. For example, the Llano River reached a low-flow this week of three-cubic feet per second, and Llano City Manager Finley deGraffenried says it could stop flowing within days.

“What this means is that the city would then have to survive off the water it has impounded in two small lakes, which we think will last us 60 to 90 days,” deGraffenried told KUT News. He says city officials are looking at options if those reserves run out, including bringing potable water in from the Highland Lakes by buying it from LCRA. Llano County is largely built on granite, which means there are no aquifers in the county.

The City of Llano has already moved to Stage 3 water restrictions. It outlaws washing cars, using ornamental fountains, and it permits hand watering lawns only twice a week.   

Austin remains in Stage 1 water restrictions, but on Monday, the University of Texas says it will voluntarily move to Stage 2 restrictions. Most visibly, that will mean all of its fountains will be turned off.

Meanwhile, the Lower Colorado River Authority says Lake Travis is 23 feet below its June average. The LCRA’s drought status page says that means it is a little over half full.

With little water coming in, the region's two water supply reservoirs, lakes Travis and Buchanan, together are about 60 percent full, with about 1.2 million acre-feet in combined storage. […] Because soil is parched, it will take about 5 to 6 inches of rain in the basin to begin to produce significant runoff. That amount of rain appears highly unlikely this summer, unless a tropical storm brings rainfall to the region.

All next, KUT News is airing a five-part series in collaboration with the Texas Tribune on the massive challenges the LCRA is facing as it tries to manage demand for the water under its stewardship.  You’ll be able to hear that during Morning Edition on 90.5 FM or online at

Stay cool this weekend. KXAN meteorologists are forecasting a high of 109 degrees on Sunday.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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