The message is sobering. Texas has never seen a drought as severe as the one it is in now.
“This is not your everyday drought—this isn't even your grandfather's drought. This is territory that we've never been in before," Greg Meszaros with the Austin Water Utility said.
And the outlook is not encouraging. Water managers told Austin’s City Council Thursday that if the dry weather continues, the Highland Lakes would be nearly empty in just a few years.
Their ultimate message for Council: Prepare for the worst.
"We need leadership,” Jo Karr Tedder with the Central Texas Water Coalition said. “We need people who really understand how serious this is."
The Highland Lakes—the primary source of the area’s water—are very close to all-time record lows.
"In 2011, the amount of water that was released to downstream rice farmers was the equivalent of a 15-year water supply for the city of Austin," Lake Austin activist Ellen Ortiz said.
Even though the lakes have not yet hit those lows, the city says the amount of water going into the reservoirs—known as inflows—is lower than ever before.
"By this measure, our drought is significantly worse than the drought of the ‘50s and continuing to intensify," Meszaros said.
Short-term, Austin residents face more watering restrictions, but water advocates say it's far more serious than brown lawns and dry gardens.
"It's time for the Council to get on board with what's really happening," Tedder said.