As many area lakes approach their lowest levels in many decades, Central Texas water managers are brainstorming ideas to conserve water.
"The drought is just so intense, it's so persistent. There's no clear end to the drought," Ryan Rowney with the Lower Colorado River Authority said. "It's requiring innovative ideas, innovative thinking."
Water managers at the Lower Colorado River Authority say they are open to new ideas to improve the situation. One suggestion is to use Lake Austin differently.
"Allow those daily demands just to lower the lake. Say two to four feet for instance," Rowney said.
That would release less water from Lake Travis, creating space in Lake Austin to catch new rain.
"The Lake Austin is just one of many ideas that staff has been discussing internally for several months," Rowney said.
Another idea is dredging Lake Travis to make it deeper.
"The dredging option is just so unbelievably expensive. You get into the tens of thousands of dollars per acre foot," Rowney said.
Of all the big users that draw water from the Highland Lakes, only one can't be controlled—evaporation.
"It's a natural phenomenon that we really don't have a way of managing," Rowney said.
But it's no small amount. Evaporation is second behind the city of Austin as the lakes biggest drain.
"There's a lot of research studies that have been done about evaporation. I'll give you one that's thinking outside the box, for instance and that's to fill your reservoirs with some type of cooking oil," Rowney said. "Have a layer of some sort. Ping pong balls have been another thing thrown out there. It'd take a lot of them."
But a flood of ping pong balls is far less likely than a conventional flood.
LCRA stresses that lowering Lake Austin is just an idea, not a plan.
Without significant rain, Lake Travis is expected to drop to its historic low sometime in October.