“It is expected that by October, the lakes will hit what is known as the ‘Drought Worse than Drought of Record,’ a level which triggers mandatory cutbacks in water use throughout the basin, beyond those that have already been implemented.”
-Burnet County Judge Donna S. Klaeger
By Donna S. Klaeger
Burnet County Judge
During the drought in 2009, a number of communities in Central Texas were faced with challenging water issues: groundwater supplies were depleted in areas, and surface water intake structures were limited in accessing water due to receding lake levels. Also, many communities did not have an emergency interconnect to neighboring communities and were faced with having to purchase treated drinking water transported in from private companies. As a result, Burnet and Llano counties focused on planning for regional water treatment transmission facilities in the area in order to improve system redundancy and reliability of water supply, as well as efficient sharing of resources.
Burnet County submitted an application to the Texas Water Development Board to receive funding assistance to conduct a regional water facility planning study for Burnet and Llano counties, which was awarded in March 2010. As a result, Burnet County, in conjunction with Llano County and 24 cities and entities, participated in this study to evaluate the feasibility of developing regional water infrastructure to serve existing and future populations through 2040.
Ironically, our regional water facility study has now become our Drought Emergency Disaster Plan.
Fast forward to the current drought conditions. In 2010-2011, two communities in Burnet County ran out of water, both as a result of lake levels. Our county applied for and received Drought Emergency Grant funding for the communities through the Texas Department of Agriculture. Lower Colorado River Authority utilities in Spicewood Beach continue to have water trucked, as they have every day since December 2010. Projects are underway and are scheduled for completion by the end of 2013 or early 2014.
The Highland Lakes are key to the survival of Burnet County. We have the distinction of being the only county to border on all of the Highland Lakes. Tourism, jobs, property values, and most importantly the water supply needed for survival of much of our county depend on these lakes.
The recent drought combined with the management of the lakes has been devastating to our county. Inflows to the lakes in 2011 were the lowest in history, and inflows to date in 2013 have been tracking closely those of 2011. This is a time in which we really needed those lakes to function as the storage reservoirs for the water supply of much of our county.
As a result, the Highland Lakes which were full in 2008 are rapidly approaching the lowest levels in history. Many businesses along the lakes have failed, and many more are barely hanging on. The water supplies of local communities are beginning to run out, the most notable being Spicewood. It is expected that by October, the lakes will hit what is known as the “Drought Worse than Drought of Record,” a level which triggers mandatory cutbacks in water use throughout the basin, beyond those that have already been implemented. If we don’t get rain soon, no one is quite sure where our water will come from. Many lessons have been learned, but, hopefully, not too late. This drought has really shown us how we have to carefully manage the water we now have because once it is gone, it is gone.
WATER was the focus of this year’s Legislature, recognizing that population in Texas is expected to double over the next 40 years. Proposition 6 is a constitutional amendment meant to help Texas safeguard the future of one of our critical resources – water. The amendment establishes a State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) that provides a conservative solution to meet our growing water needs – without incurring debt in the process.
With current groundwater supplies declining, certain areas of the state will experience significant shortages in the absence of developing new supplies. The state water plan encompasses more than 4,500 projects with a range of strategies including reuse, conservation, new reservoirs, development of new groundwater supplies, desalination and more. Without new supplies, another major drought could be devastating to Texas’ economy and jobs.
I encourage everyone to review Proposition 6 and consider support of the passage of this important legislation in order to safeguard the future of critical water resources.