BELTON — Although parts of Central Texas received as much as 2 inches of rain in the last 30 days, according to data from the National Weather Service, water levels at Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir remain down.
Ronnie Bruggman, lakes manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Belton Lake is still about 10 feet below normal. The Corps’ daily lake elevation reports show both Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir and Belton Lake have consistently been between 10 and 11 feet below their normal depths since Jan. 1.
“The National Weather Service said we are in our fourth or fifth year of a 10-year drought,” Bruggman said. “We can probably expect it to continue through the summer at least.”
Bruggman, who was quick to point out he is neither a climatologist nor a meteorologist, said lake levels have remained below normal since 2011.
“Over the last two years the average elevation is down by about 8 feet,” Bruggman said. Despite the continual below-average elevation of the lake, the Army Corps of Engineers has no plans to establish a new normal level for either Belton Lake or Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir.
The normal elevation levels, which are about 600 feet for Belton Lake and 620 feet for Stillhouse Hollow, are referred to as “conservation levels” and were set to ensure the lakes are able to supply enough water to meet all of Central Texas’ various demands.
“We’re not going to fluctuate the design of the lakes based on drought,” Bruggman said.
The prolonged reduction in lake levels has forced local businesses to adapt to the new reality.
Don Niekamp, manager of the Belton Lake Marina, said he had to shut down for a brief period last year to add 40 feet of docking, a decision that made it easier to deal with lower than normal lake levels.
“The lake levels haven’t been affecting us at all,” Niekamp said. “We’re fine now.”