Southwest Austin Dripping Springs Edition | January 2023

Top environmental stories to watch in 2023 WATER Experts stress importance of conservation amid lower water levels


below 1.4 million acre-feet in June. Stage 1 drought restrictions place lim- itations on water usage with a focus on reducing outdoor watering, said Teresa Lutes, Austin Water managing engineer in water resource planning. The January forecast from the Lower Colorado River Authority, which manages the Highland Lakes on the lower Colorado River, shows lake levels will remain within or near Stage 1 levels for the rst half of the year. The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District entered Stage 3 Critical Drought Status in October. That status means there are water restrictions for the neighboring cities of Buda and Kyle, which receive water from the aquifer. Austin Water receives its water from the Colorado River; however, the aquifer feeds Barton Creek and other water sources that ow into the Colorado River, Loftus said. Loftus said regardless of where the water comes from, consumers should conserve their usage.


The Lower Colorado River Authority has forecasted water levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis in 2023 with predictions falling in the Austin Water Stage 1 restrictions range.

While there is a chance that 2023 could oer slightly wetter conditions than the previous year, Austin experts said it is still important to conserve water. In 2022, the United States saw La Niña conditions—a cooling period of sea surface temperatures across the Pacic that typically brings drier weather, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “By and large, there is just no question that for at least nine out of 12 months last year we did not have enough rain,” said Tim Loftus, general manager of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conserva- tion District. By spring, NOAA anticipates a shift toward neutral conditions, which could ease dry conditions. In January, Austin remained in Stage 1 drought restrictions, which were enacted after water levels at lakes Travis and Buchanan dropped

Scenario 1

Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4

1.5 1.4 1.3 1.1 1.2

Austin Water Stage 1 restrictions start at under 1.4 million acre-feet.


0.9 0.8

Austin Water’s Stage 2 restrictions begin at under 900,000 acre-feet.











“It really needs to be a lifelong philosophy, not just a condition during drought,” Loftus said. He said individuals can make a dierence by cutting back on usage, planting native plants or opting for zero-scape options, and harvesting rainwater if possible. Austin Water is working to nish

installing smart meters, which allow customers to get real-time data to monitor usage. The utility is also updating its Water Forward plan, which is a 100-year plan for managing water levels and demand. The inau- gural plan was adopted in 2018, and Austin Water will nish the update by 2024.

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