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Recent rains provide only temporary relief to drought

For Immediate Release: April 10, 2006

AUSTIN — With dry weather back in the picture, the level of Lake Travis is dropping again after holding steady following rains in late March.

The lake level has dropped more than half a foot since heavy rains hit parts of Austin and Central Texas on March 28. Without badly needed rains,  :( through Labor Day as LCRA releases water to meet demands downstream. Lake Buchanan is expected to drop about five inches per week during this period if the area doesn't receive significant rains.

"It looks like the late March rains provided only temporary relief" to the current drought that began about a year ago, said Bob Rose, LCRA's chief meteorologist.

While the heaviet rains in late March caused localized flooding at some locations in Austin, they have had little effect on lakes Travis and Buchanan, the two reservoirs that provide water for Austin and other communities. The heaviest rains fell below the Travis and Buchanan watersheds, so the two reservoirs saw very little benefit.

However, the two reservoirs benefited indirectly from the rains, according to David Walker, LCRA supervisor of river operations. Runoff from the rains that flow into the Colorado River in Austin and downstream temporarily reduced the amount of water LCRA needed to release from the two reservoirs for various uses. These include uses by the City of Austin and other basin communities, as well as industrial, agricultural and environmental needs.

The rains slowed the drop in the elevations of lakes Travis and Buchanan, but the lakes have continued to drop. For example, the elevation of Lake Travis has continued to fall and now stands at 662.9 feet above mean sea level — nearly nine feet below its monthly average and well below 681 feet, the level it is considered full.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan are the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes chain, created by damming the Colorado River northwest of Austin. The other lakes — Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls and Austin — are called “pass-through” lakes because they are used to pass waters downstream.

In late March, the Austin area has received rains ranging from about half an inch to more than three inches in less than 24 hours. Other areas in Central and South Central Texas also received subtantial rains. But since then the area has had little rain. (See rainfall summary.) And, mich of the rain that fell was soaked up quickly by the dry land, so it generated little runoff.
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