Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

It’s Going to Take a Lot More Rain to Fill the Highland Lakes

Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

While Central Texas saw good rains over the last week, it's not anywhere near enough to fill the Highland Lakes. In this photo, a man stands out of the wind during a downpour July 23, 2008 in downtown Brownsville, Texas.

If you spent your Sunday indoors scrapbooking or just catching up on Season 1 of Revenge, you may have found a moment to wonder: It’s been raining all day. Are the Highland Lakes full yet?

Lakes Travis and Buchanan, vital reservoirs for Central Texas, took quite a beating during last year’s record drought. Lake Travis dropped to 626 feet last summer, near historic lows. And despite some good rains this year that brought it up 35 more feet, the lakes are still less than half full.

But as we reported earlier in the summer, you wouldn’t want the type of storm it would take to fill up the lakes in one go.

“An individual rain storm like that would likely cause some catastrophic flooding,” Bob Rose, a meteorologist with the LCRA told us. “Spread out over two or three storms would be much better.”

But a single storm that could fill the lakes isn’t out of the question. During the “rain bomb” of 2007, nineteen inches of rain fell during just eight hours, filling Lake Travis. That’s the rare case, though.

After Sunday’s deluge, where parts of Central Texas saw two inches of rain over the day, and rains earlier in the week, you would think the levels would show some improvement. And they have. Just not nearly enough to get back to normal.

The Lower Colorado River Authority tells KUT News that the water level of Lake Travis is up a little over a foot. While Lake Buchanan only saw a gain of a few hundredths of an inch. Lake Travis is still nearly 30 feet below where it should be, and Buchanan is down about 17 feet. It could take a full wet season this winter to get the lake back.


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