Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Despite cooler temps, Central Texas drought still a reality

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TWC News: Despite cooler temps, Central Texas drought still a reality
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Even though the temperatures are cooler outside, the drought in Central Texas is still prevalent.

So much so that the Lower Colorado River Authority took action just before the Thanksgiving holiday, asking the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality, or TCEQ, for emergency drought relief. The action would allow LCRA to cut off releases to downstream rice farmers next year, but requires a change to the water management plan.

Austin resident Kathryn Zaney still notices the impact the drought has had on her home. Beyond parched plants, she and her husband noticed effects of the drought this year--simply by the added boat traffic diverted from the Highland Lakes.

"There is lots of extra land on Lake Travis right now,” she said. "There is a new normal, just like for everything else."

Dripping Springs resident Patrick Clemens says current rules don't go far enough to preserve the region's main water source. He points to major holes in city policies when it comes to water restrictions, as well as LCRA's drought triggers.

“We need to be proactive and do something about it instead of just talking about it," he said.

Clemens thinks LCRA and local governments should do more to encourage homeowners to plant native species, rather than keep watering ones that are not designed for the Central Texas climate zone.

"It would use a lot less water if you would xeriscape with Texas native plants," he said.

Austin Water customers are only allowed to water one day a week right now, but the amount they can use is unlimited.

Despite heavy rains earlier in the year over Austin, the Hill Country saw much lower totals.

As a result, the lakes have not been able to recover at as fast of a pace. Lake Travis remains about 35 feet below average for this time of year.

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