1:03 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Recent Rain Barely Boosts Lake Levels

Lake Travis, photographed in June 2012. The lake is less than half full.

Parts of North Austin and Round Rock received more than four inches of rain in last night’s storm. But Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are only up a couple of inches. That’s because most of the rain fell downstream of the watershed.

Bob Rose is the chief meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority. He says the recent rain has been great, but is no drought-buster.

“To really start re-filling the lakes, we kind of need an overall change in the whole weather pattern," Rose says. "Where we start getting more rain more frequently and the rain falls all across the area, including the Hill Country."

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12:07 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Colorado River’s Oxygen Levels Dropping

The volunteers of Austin Youth River Watch regularly test the water in the Colorado.
Austin Youth River Watch

The Colorado River not only supplies much of Central Texas with its drinking water, it’s also a cherished destination for summer recreation seekers. But new data suggests that the health of the river ecosystem might be in jeopardy.

And authorities might not have known about the scope of the problem without the help of some teenage naturalists.

For about 20 years, Austin Youth River Watch has organized groups of teens to monitor the water quality of the Colorado. Every week they check water at different parts of the river and its tributaries. Lately they’ve been getting some unusual readings.

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AM Update
7:54 am
Fri June 8, 2012

AM Update: EPA May Approve Clean Air Plan, Free Life Jackets, New Disc Golf Course

Texas power plants face new air quality controls; LCRA promotes water safety with life jacket giveaway; New disc golf course opens Saturday.
KUT News; Photo courtesy; Photo courtesy

EPA Hints at Approval of TCEQ Air Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  has signaled it will likely approve changes to the state’s clean air plan.

A revised plan from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality establishes site-wide emission caps with specific monitoring at units for existing major sources of air pollution. The EPA said the proposal gives the industry more flexibility in day-to-day operations.

The agency will seek public comment on the approval for 30 days before it makes a final decision. You can read more over at StateImpact Texas.

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1:10 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Grant to Help Some Landowners in Conservation Efforts

Landowners can use matching funding for several types of projects under the Creekside Conservation Program.
Photos courtesy LCRA; collage by Laura Rice, KUT News

Landowners in the lower Colorado River basin have the opportunity to get more money for conservation efforts. The Lower Colorado River Authority received a federal grant that will help landowners reduce soil erosion and increase native plant and animal diversity.

The EPA grant will increase the amount of matching funding for qualified landowners in 11 counties from $10,000 to $15,000.

The LCRA says this program can make a big difference.

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AM Update
8:39 am
Thu April 26, 2012

AM Update: Lakes Travis & Buchanan Low, Ron Paul Speaks at UT, Perry Endorses Romney

Lake Travis remains low due to dry conditions in April, despite the rains we received in March.
Reshma Kirpalani, KUT News

Lakes Travis and Buchanan Still Low

According to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), lakes Travis and Buchanan remain low –less than half full to be exact.

Texas saw an increase in rainfall last month but that hasn’t been enough to raise water levels in the Highland Lakes. As of April 25, lakes Travis and Buchanan combined are about 48 percent full; that’s much lower compared to last April when the lakes were 71 percent full.

The record-setting drought last year hit the Highland Lakes hard; the lack of rain brought the amount of water flowing into the lakes, called inflows, to a record low. The rains this March caused inflows to surpass the historical average, but with dry weather this month the inflow levels have not hit their normal average.

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AM Update
8:14 am
Fri April 20, 2012

AM Update: Willie Nelson Immortalized, Cap Metro Fatality, LCRA Reduces Staff

Willie and a friend get a sneak peek at his bronze likeness.
Photo courtesy

Willie Nelson Statue Unveiled

A statue of famed country musician Willie Nelson will be unveiled today.

The eight-foot tall, one-ton statue will stand on the plaza located on Willie Nelson Boulevard (aka Second Street) and Lavaca Street, at the foot of the Austin City Limits Live Theater. Capital Area Statues has worked on the project over the past several years and as board president Lawrence Wright describes it, the statue will be another fixture of Austin’s culture.

“This gift to Austin will become an instant, iconic representation of our great city and its love affair with music.” 

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AM Update
8:46 am
Mon April 16, 2012

AM Update: Perry's Spending Pledge, AISD Budget Plan, LCRA's Evaporating Water

Gov. Perry is offering a conservative "pledge" to lawmakers.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry to Unveil Budget Pledge

From the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry is focusing on the state’s financial future. He’ll be in Houston this afternoon to talk about a budget plan.

Perry will unveil a pledge he’ll ask politicians to sign. It promises to cut spending, keep taxes the same and set strict limits on how much government can expand. It’s his first major move as governor since dropping out of the presidential race.

Perry says this pledge will “lead to a stronger Texas.” But some state Democrats aren’t so sure.

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12:23 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

KUT News Roundup: LCRA Water Plan Woes, Erroneous Energy Bills, Pumping Oil With Pollution

Let's take a midweek look at the top Austin and Central Texas stories from and StateImpact Texas, KUT's reporting partnership with NPR.

LCRA About to Finalize Water Plan Through 2020

A vote is imminent on a plan that would regulate water use from the Highland Lakes to the Gulf Coast until 2020. The Lower Colorado River Authority heard public comment Tuesday from a wide range of people on its water management plan.

“It’s really hard for me to be speaking here today, because we are staring down the devastation of the drought of 2011,” said Janet Caylor, representing businesses on Lake Travis. “And as y’all are aware, there have already been multiple bankruptcies, loss of jobs, many are struggling to stay in business.”

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9:11 am
Tue February 21, 2012

AM Update 2/21/12: LCRA Talks Water, Charges in Fatal Wheatsville Wreck, F1 Hotel Rates Rise

LCRA's Water Operations Committee will meet today to discuss a new water plan which has many people divided.
Photo by Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

LCRA Board to Discuss Water Management Plan

The Lower Colorado River Authority's (LCRA) Water Operations Committee is meeting today and on the agenda is the new Water Management Plan. The full LCRA board will discuss the new plan and possibly take action tomorrow.

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9:05 am
Thu February 2, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/2/12: SXSW Wristbands For Grabs, Spicewood Water Woes

A 2011 SXSW attendee pleased with his wristband collection. Wristbands for SXSW Music 2012 go on sale this morning.
Photo courtesy

SXSW Wristbands For Sale this Morning at 10 am

South by Southwest begins wristband sales for its music festival this morning. Purchases can only be made online to people with an Austin area zipcode:

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News Brief
7:05 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/15/11: State Water Plan, Final Vote on Austin Parks Smoking Ban

The Texas Water Development Board will vote on the 2012 Water Plan at their meeting today.
Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/KUT News

Vote Today on State Water Plan

We may not be thinking about the drought as much with the rain we've seen in Central Texas. But the prolonged dry spell is still going on, the state’s population is growing, and water supplies are getting tighter. Today the Texas Water Development Board is scheduled to vote on its 2012 State Water Plan. The report calls for billions of dollars in water infrastructure projects and conservation- to meet water needs over the next half century.

The board is limited in power. It does give out loans and grants to local governments, but it would ultimately be up to local officials to carry out the state water plan.

You can read the plan and check out a power point presentation on it here.

Final Vote on Parks Smoking Ban

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News Brief
5:22 am
Thu December 8, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/08/11:Council Voting on Parks Smoking Ban, Water May be Cut Off for Farmers

Photo courtesy of Shannon Holman:

City Council to Vote on Permanent Parks Smoking Ban

The Austin City Council is scheduled to vote today on an ordinance to permanently ban smoking at all city parks. That includes athletic fields, nature preserves and swimming pools. Golf courses would be exempt from the ban. There could also be exemptions for some special events. The proposed ordinance includes several reasons for the ban including:

Tobacco related litter is the most common form of litter and over 40,000 cigarette butts have been collected from 39 Parks and Recreation Department sites this year. Cigarettes also pose a significant fire risk. According to the Austin Fire Department, 9 out of 10 fires along our roadways are caused by cigarettes and at least 25% of all wildfires have been caused by cigarettes.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of death and disability in Austin and Travis County. By restricting smoking in City parks, the Department is protecting the health, safety and welfare of community members

Smoking in city parks is prohibited right now because of a city-issued burn ban still in effect. But if this ordinance is passed, smoking would not be allowed at parks even after the burn ban is lifted.

While we're talking about parks, KUT's Matt Largey reported during Morning Edition, on the struggle state parks officials are having in funding state parks. Texas Parks & Wildlife says it needs more than $4 million to keep parks running.

TCEQ Approves Plan that Could Cut Off Water for Farmers

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News Brief
5:49 am
Tue November 22, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/22/11: IDEA Proposal Facing Opposition, Georgetown Suspends Dog Adoptions

One of many signs on display at Monday night's AISD Board meeting. The signs showed opposition to a plan that would create some in-district charter campuses.
Photo by Nathan Bernier/KUT News

AISD Charter IDEA Facing Opposition

Emotions ran high at last night’s Austin Independent School District Board meeting. Some teachers and parents passionately told the board they don’t want the district to partner with a charter school.

AISD is considering collaborating with IDEA Public Schools to run in-district charter programs at some struggling East Austin campuses. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan December 12th. KUT's Nathan Bernier was at last night's meeting; you can read or listen to his report here.

Georgetown Puts Dog Adoptions on Hold

The City of Georgetown Animal Shelter has temporarily suspended the adoption of dogs. The city says a significant number of dogs at the shelter have flu-like symptoms and are being quarantined.

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News Brief
5:28 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Top Morning Stories October 20, 2011

Taylor Farms Retail Inc. has issued a voluntary recall for some bagged salads that could be contaminated with Salmonella.
Photo courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration

Precautionary Recall for Bagged Salads

Taylor Farms Retail Inc., a California company, is voluntarily recalling over 3,000 cases of various bagged salad blends because they could be contaminated with salmonella. The salad products were distributed in several states including Texas.

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3:54 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

If Drought Worsens, Austin Could Be Forced To Cut Water Use By 20 Percent

Lake Travis water levels are approaching historic lows.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

Austin would have to reduce its water consumption by a whopping 20 percent if the current drought surpasses the ten-year drought of record that occurred during the 1940's and 50's, something that could happen as soon as this spring.  The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) board decided today that it would go into “pro rata curtailment” if Lakes Travis and Buchanan drop below 600,000 acre feet.

“Pro rata curtailment” would mean all LCRA customers would have to reduce their draw by 20 percent. Austin gets all of its water from the Colorado River, so that would leave little wiggle room for the city.

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12:08 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

LCRA Votes to Settle Lawsuit With San Antonio Water System

The Lower Colorado River Authority has voted to settle a lawsuit with the San Antonio Water System over a dropped water sharing project.
Logo courtesy of the LCRA

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Board voted unanimously today to pay the San Antonio Water System $30 million dollars to settle a $1.2 billion lawsuit SAWS had filed for breach of contract.

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News Brief
6:52 am
Wed October 19, 2011

Top Morning Stories October 19, 2011

As the drought lowers Lake Travis, The Lower Colorado River Authority's Board is voting on changes to its water managment plan Wednesday.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

LCRA to Vote on Key Water Policy Changes

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s trying to rework how it manages water in the face of this persistent drought. The LCRA Board is meeting this morning to vote on key changes to its water management plan.

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News Brief
7:05 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Top Morning Stories September 21, 2011

Low lake levels, including at Lake Travis, have the LCRA considering reducing or cutting off water supplies to some farmers.
Photo by KUT News.

LCRA Vote Could Cut Off Water for Farmers

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Board is scheduled to vote today on plans that could reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers. 

LCRA staff recommends cutting off water to farmers, if lake levels don’t fill up significantly and if dry conditions continue into next year. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would have to approve any of the LCRA’s plans.  Lakes Travis and Buchanan are a major water supply for Central Texas cities, including Austin.

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12:08 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

LCRA May Cut Off Water to Farmers

The Lower Colorado River Authority is considering reducing or cutting off water to farmers because of dropping lake levels and the ongoing drought.
KUT News

The Lower Colorado River Authority is considering asking the state for permission to reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers next year because of the ongoing drought and dropping lake levels. In a press release, the LCRA stated: 

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6:34 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Texas Water Utility Plans for Drought Worse Than 1950s

Water levels have dropped at Lake Travis because the drought, May 16 2011.
Lower Colorado River Authority

Fearing that this drought could reduce lake levels lower than ever before, the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority, the wholesale supplier of water to Austin and other Central Texas cities, plans to meet next week to discuss reducing or ending its water sales to downriver farmers next year.

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