Austin water officials said this afternoon that the drought is the worst Central Texas has experienced — worse already than the epic drought of the 1950s — and that as early as next spring the city may need to pursue options such as banning all but hand-held outdoor watering, higher drought rates and even curtailing the use of indoor water
“This is not your father’s drought, this is not even your grandfather’s drought,” Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros told the City Council. “This is, in my opinion, the worst drought we’ve faced in Central Texas, ever.”
For the last two years, Austin has received rainfall amounts close to average. But that rain has not replenished the lakes as much as it used to, due to a combination of parched ground soaking it up and rain simply falling in the wrong places.
The water utility laid out two forecasts, assuming the sort of game-changing conservation measures Meszaros mentioned are not implemented. Under the first, the water utility assumes the record-low inflows into the lakes that happened during 2011 continue. If they do, the lakes go dry in two to three years.
Meszaros said that scenario was unlikely. Under the other scenario, which assumes inflows more in line with the last few years, the lakes approach empty in five to six years. What’s needed, Meszaros said, is a series of intense rains.
In the meantime, he said, the water utility will be beefing up its public-outreach efforts, including taping soon-to-run spots starring country singer Willie Nelson. The city should eventually be willing to pursue nearly any measure, he said, because “there’s no option we will find acceptable where the lakes drop to zero.”