Energy & Environment

Water, energy, conservation, sustainability, WTP4, pollution, oil and gas, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), recycling, and other environmental issues related to Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center

A tropical system is developing in the Gulf of Mexico that could have an affect on Austin weather in the days ahead.

Aaron Treadway, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, says computer models have been "all over the place" in recent days – but data now suggests the system’s heading toward the Texas coast, somewhere from Northern Mexico to Louisiana.

With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade ... so far.

Here's the season to date, by the numbers (provided by the National Interagency Fire Center) and with some historic statistics for comparison.

National Weather Service

Austin may be getting a break from the triple-digit heat – in the form of storm clouds.

It’s tough for cold fronts to make it this far south in the summer, but one has made it down far enough to affect conditions in Central Texas. National Weather Service forecaster Aaron Treadway says it includes a real rain chance.

Ann Choi for KUT News

Looking for one last summer getaway  before school starts? The San Antonio Botanical Garden has a suggestion to Austinites; go see some carnivorous plants.

"Many of these plants grow in the area where the soil is very poor – so capturing insects is almost like taking a vitamin pill for them," says Sasha Kodet, education director for the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

flickr.com/velkr0

Five months ago, Austin cashiers stopped asking, “Paper or plastic?”  And since then, Austin retailers and customers have adjusted to the city ordinance banning single-use paper and plastic bags.

However, the Texas Retailers Association argues banning plastic bags does more harm than good.

flickr.com/kaanah

Smoke will be rising in southwest Austin today near Buda. Austin Water is performing a prescribed burn with help from the Austin and Buda Fire Departments.

The burn will cover over 600 acres of land west of Buda at the Onion Creek Management Unit. The area will burn for up to seven hours, or until around 5 p.m.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

Some 30,000 honeybees are about to find a more suitable home.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is relocating a massive beehive found in a large oak tree on Highway 183 near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

flickr.com/onthespiral

Before crushing those pesky fire ants crawling across your porch, did you ever consider the critters’ effect on the ecosystem? The University of Texas’ newly formed Texas Invasive Species program has $2.7 million dollars to answer those questions and more.

The program, formed with a six-year grant from the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, utilizes researchers from the Brackenridge Field Laboratory to investigate and protect Texas's ecosystems from exotic invasive species.

Lower Colorado River Authority

Lake Travis could drop to a  50-year low this weekend, possibly falling below 626.1 feet. 

“When that does occur, that would be the third lowest level ever on record for Lake Travis, and the lowest since November of 1963," Meteorologist Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service said. "It tells us the drought is persistent and ongoing."

KUT News

Austin Energy is turning to the wind to power the city’s future.

Austin City Council members will look at a contract today that increases the amount of renewable energy purchased by Austin Energy to 35 percent from 25 percent.   

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Today marks the anniversary of Austin’s first 100-degree day in 2012, but Austinites have yet to face temperatures in the triple digits this year.

If current weather patterns continue, Austin may only experience a few 100-degree days this summer. That’s according to Cory Van Pelt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service for Austin/San Antonio.

Hurricane Season Begins

May 31, 2013
flickr.com/jomatt

Hurricane season officially starts Saturday, June 1, and Texas leaders are calling on Texans to be prepared.

Emergency response agencies staged their annual hurricane exercise Friday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Hays County is looking for alternative groundwater supplies. An open Request for Proposals seeks to pipe in water from aquifers that could be tapped to supplement water from the Edwards and Trinity aquifers.

County Commissioner Ray Whisenant (R-Precinct 4) says the existing supply of water appears to be unsustainable with the county's current growth rate.

Steve Jurvetson via Texas Tribune

When Texas promised to protect a threatened lizard in the oil-rich Permian Basin, state officials entrusted the day-to-day oversight to a nonprofit that sounds like an environmental group: the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation.

What’s not advertised is the occupation of the board members who created it.

STP Nuclear Operating Company http://www.stpnoc.com/photo.php?pageID=30

Austin Energy is getting some of its power again from the South Texas Project. STP is a nuclear power source in the Bay City area where one of four reactors was offline for the past few months because of a fire outside the unit.

On Tuesday it started operating again.

Flickr, Ronnie Pitman http://www.flickr.com/photos/pitmanra/2373739283/

The Lower Colorado River Authority is reminding people who live along the Highland Lakes that you need a contract to pump water from the lakes.

The reminder comes at a time when Central Texans are starting to think about lawn care.

The LCRA wants to keep track of the water removed from the lakes and help educate people about responsible water use. 

StuSeeger/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuseeger/

If you like seeing the wildflowers around Central Texas this spring, get ready for a bigger finish for the season.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, they say there’s been a slow start, but could be late peak. Cooler weather has delayed the peak of some blooms and it looks like a good late season for flowers that need less rain.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune and Pedro Moura Pinheiro, Texas Tribune

With the drought getting worse by the day, a Texas mayor is turning to a higher power.

He’s asking people to pray for rain.

Odessa Mayor David Turner is calling on community and church leaders to make this Sunday, April 14th, a day of prayer for rainfall.

facebook.com/keepcranebeautiful

This weekend, Keep Texas Beautiful and the Texas Department of Transportation are joining together for 'Texas Trash-Off', which is Texas's "largest single-day litter cleanup" event.

Low/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/24831034@N08/

If you see a vehicle belching smoke, there’s a way to report it.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality encourages drivers to report vehicles they see that are emitting dirty smoke for more than 10 consecutive seconds.

The TCEQ then sends a letter to the owner suggesting an inspection. Compliance is voluntary.

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