Protecting Rivers During Drought
Water supply projects such as dams, pipelines and pumps that are built to meet peak demand during summer months often negatively impact the health of our rivers, bays, fish and wildlife. That is particularly true because demands for outdoor water use generally increase during drought periods. Responsible drought management practices can help ensure that our essential water needs will be met, even during the driest times, while minimizing the need for new environmentally damaging infrastructure projects. Read more about the environmental impact of water infrastructure projects.
Building new reservoirs to supply water to meet peak demands during drought is also a poor use of limited water resources. Reservoirs result in greatly increased levels of evaporation of water for our rivers. For example, during 2011, water evaporation from the LCRA’s Highland Lakes was over 190,000 acre-feet. These evaporative losses were close to twice the amount of water the City of Austin used during that year (107,000 acre-feet).
Increased diversions of water from rivers and streams during drought periods directly reduce river and stream flows at times when flows are already low and fish and wildlife area at risk.
Reducing water demands during drought requires less water to be stored behind reservoirs or diverted from streams and rivers, allowing potentially more water to flow downriver and into our bays during these critical dry periods. These limited water resources are essential for aquatic species and for the economic activities, such as the seafood industry, recreational fishing, and nature tourism, that depend on these species.