As of November 25, 2012 the reservoirs (Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan) that provide virtually all of the water that Austin and Travis County depend on are holding 849,000 acre-feet of supply. We used 880,000 acre-feet in 2011. I trust the issue is obvious. Even with expected inflows to the Lower Colorado system it is projected that we have just 21 to 22 months of water available for a very popular, fast-growing metropolitan area.
Combined storage is almost down to levels last seen almost 50 years ago, when Austin was far from “metropolitan” and the entire population of Central Texas was much lower than the city itself now. There are stopgaps, and there are solutions. None are easy, and few are inexpensive. Moreover, needs and solutions vary widely across this vast state of ours. In a moment I’ll ask you to contact your representatives in the state legislature, but first I want to outline the issues a little further.
Specific plans for 16 identified regions of Texas have been agreed and presented formally in the State Water Plan:
Without water, the economic health and growth that Texas enjoys will be in jeopardy. The water plan is workable. What’s missing is the money to make it work. And like all things that involve government and politics, how to fund such an important long-term process is controversial. This recent article from the Austin American-Statesman frames the controversy well:
Ultimately, the discussion of “local control” will happen. But when the state capital may have less than two years’ water supply left, and other parts of the state even less, using State funds to kick-start the process makes enormous and, to me, very clear sense. I’ll be working through the Austin Board of REALTORS® and the Water Issues subcommittee that I chair to help shine light on the need to fund the water plan while the legislature is in town over the next several months. You can help by expressing your support. Contact your representatives in the state House and Senate.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and hope you’ll be on board with this process. I will continue to report on progress here.