Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

This is Your Lake. This is Drought. This is Your Lake on Drought.

The latest drought monitor from the National Drought Mitigation Center was released Thursday, and, while it showed much of Texas is slowly inching its way out of extreme drought, some other numbers give cause for concern.

While rains have blessed much of the state this month, many lakes, reservoirs and aquifers are not refilling and show only modest signs of rising. Case in point: Lake Buchanan, an important water source for Central Texas. It currently sits at 988 feet above sea level, some 23 feet below where it usually is in December. Combined with Lake Travis, the other important water reservoir for Central Texas, the two lakes are at 37 percent of their water capacity.

A new image from NASA shows how parched the lake is:

Image by NASA

The shorelines of Buchanan Lake seen in October 2011 recede during a record year of drought

The image was chosen for NASA’s Earth Observatory’s “Image of the Day” feature Thursday. NASA says that the “distinct, tan “bathtub ring”” around the lake shows “exposed lake bed sentiments.” The edge of the lake is “currently as much as a mile from the stone walls that normally protect lakefront homes,” NASA says.

Now here’s a look at the “before” photo, taken of the lake when it was at normal levels in October 2003. It’s readily apparent how far water levels have dropped:

Image by NASA

A full Lake Buchanan, as seen in October 2003

Some more from NASA on the lake:

“Around the lake’s shores, signs of former human settlements have risen from the bed as water levels have dropped. The town of Bluffton, for instance, was evacuated and flooded when Buchanan Dam and the resulting lake were completed in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Now the foundations of former buildings and businesses are exposed, as is the graveyard. In other areas, everything from ancient fossils and tools, a century-old church, and a former graveyard for freed slaves have appeared out of the lake bed.

According to news reports, residents near Lake Nagodoches in east Texas found a storage tank that held oxygen and hydrogen for NASA’s space shuttle Columbia, which broke up during atmospheric re-entry over Texas in 2003.”

This graph from lakelevels.info shows how much the levels have dropped at Lake Buchanan this year, as well as where they were last year:

Map by Lakelevels.info

Water levels at Lake Buchanan, Texas


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