By Sarah Rafique
Killeen Daily Herald
Ronnie Bruggman doesn't have a "magic wand" to predict this year's lake levels, but he said Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes already are doing better than last year.
"We are in much better shape than we were in 2011," said Bruggman, lake manager for Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes.
At its worst last summer, Stillhouse Hollow was down 17 feet from normal and Belton was down 12 feet by the end of the summer.
Currently, Belton Lake is 101 percent full at 594.22 feet and Stillhouse Hollow is 96 percent full at 620.68 feet, according to the Brazos River Authority.
However, the authority noted that Belton Lake is abnormally dry and Stillhouse Hollow is bordering on abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions.
"We've been lucky," said Bruggman, adding the current water elevation and outlook is good. "We'd had some rain and a little runoff ... hopefully, we'll be able to hold this water this summer."
Despite the year's rainfall to date, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said close to half of Texas is in a drought.
But, he said, "this summer won't be as bad as it was last year because we're not starting off as hot as we did last year."
The amount of evaporation hit record levels last summer due to frequent temperatures of 100-plus degrees, he said. With cooler summer temperatures and the anticipation of rainfall, Nielsen-Gammon said there won't be as much evaporation this year, which will be better for recreational activities.
Since the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, Bruggman said he anticipates Memorial Day weekend to be the busiest weekend for area lakes.
He said he already has seen an increase in the number of people visiting the lakes and thinks it will continue throughout the summer.
Bruggman said there is no sure way to know the outlook for the summer's weather, since much of it depends on temperature, rainfall and wind, which increases evaporation.
It's important to think of the future by conserving water and electricity, he said. Although there aren't any mandatory restrictions in place, prevention is important.
Mike Anderson, assistant public information officer for the Brazos River Authority, said "Belton, Stillhouse Hollow and the other Brazos basin lakes are in much better condition than a year ago during the drought, but with Texas' population growing, and with its demand on our precious water supply, it is important we practice water conservation."
There are many things we can each do to help conserve, he said, "from fixing a dripping faucet, to planting native, drought-tolerant plants and turf."
Contact Sarah Rafique at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7549.