Summer forecast: Dropping lake levels could mean water restrictions soon

(KXAN) — As Austin’s hottest May in record-keeping history continues and an unusually dry weather pattern refuses to loosen its grip, Lake Travis is losing more than 600 million gallons of water a day and has now dropped to its lowest level since May 2015.

Austin restaurant veteran Greg Winborn put his chef coat back on a month ago to help open Vincent’s On the Lake — a new restaurant at Emerald Point Marina.

“They got me out of retirement,” Winborn said. “Man, I couldn’t watch any more television. It was driving me crazy. I knew how everything was going to end!”

But drought cycles like this are hard on lakeside restaurant owners.

The view of dry boat docks due to low water levels at Vincent’s on the Lake, a new bar/restaurant on the shores of Lake Travis.

“Right now as you can see behind us, looks kind of bare,” Winborn said, referring to the dry docks over his shoulder.

With their front row of boat slips now sitting on dry land, business from the lake has been slower than the new establishment hoped.

“It takes a little bite out. There’s no question about it,” Winborn said.

Even if you do not swim or boat on Lake Travis, low lake levels can impact you. The Highland Lakes provide drinking water for more than 1 million Central Texans, and Lake Travis is losing 633 million gallons of water every day.

If dry weather continues, combined storage in Lakes Travis and Buchanan could drop below 1.4 million acre-feet before June 1. That is important because 1.4 million acre-feet of water is the threshold to trigger Stage One water restrictions in Austin.

Lake Travis levels declining over the last two weeks, projected to drop below 1.4 million acre-feet of water before June 1 — the trigger level for Austin Water restrictions.

While Austin Water declined an on-camera interview until water restrictions actually begin, they did confirm that Stage One restrictions will be enacted when we reach that threshold. These would be the first water restrictions in Austin since September 2018.

The practical changes under Stage One restrictions are fairly minimal.

Austin Water customers are always limited to one day a week watering. Moving to Stage One would only change the time of day when customers are allowed to use automatic sprinklers.

Current ‘Conservation Stage’: Watering allowed between 7 p.m. – 10 a.m.Stage One water restrictions: Watering allowed between 7 p.m. – 8 a.m.

“The water will be back, we just don’t know when,” Winborn said. “But it’ll be back.”

Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans’ Summer Forecast series continues all week as he digs into specific meteorological factors that will play a part in shaping our summer weather, and impacts we should start preparing for now.

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