Highland Lakes Start New Year Above Normal for First Time in Eight Years

AUSTIN—The Highland Lakes that supply the Austin area's water started this year at their highest level in eight years.

It's a big change from the recent drought, and Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan together are at just under 90 percent of available water storage. John Hofmann, with the Lower Colorado River Authority, said Lake Travis is 54 feet higher than it was in January of 2015.

"We're in a much, much better place in terms of available supply,” he said.

The Hill Country watershed that feeds the lakes picked up about 35 inches of rain. Although there were several flash flooding events in 2015 which devastated Central Texas, the rains were beneficial to the Highland Lake system.

It was also helpful for people who enjoy getting out on the water.

"For a while there you could drive a half mile out to the lake level, now it's all the way up, I mean totally up,” said fisherman Eddie Richardson.

However, experts caution that the current, plentiful water supply doesn't mean people should let down their guard. Drought conditions could easily return, and the population influx to Central Texas is also important to consider.

“The Colorado River system, we've added 100,000 acre feet of projects to our mix, we're in the process of building a reservoir downstream that's going to be initiating construction this month,” said Hofmann.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan provide water to more than 1 million people, as well as to industry, business and agriculture.