Bob Maindelle Guidelines Sept. 11

The top map shows the Lampasas River watershed which drains into Stillhouse Hollow Lake. The bottom map shows the Leon River watershed which drains into Belton Lake.

From my home nestled between Salado and Harker Heights, I can physically view Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

During the week of Aug. 14, my rain gauge caught a full two inches of rain. The following week, another half-inch was added. Then, on Aug. 29, the area between Salado and Fort Hood received between three and five inches of rain, causing minor flooding.

With all of this rain, many ask why have our two local reservoirs, Stillhouse Hollow and Belton Lake, not risen appreciably? Indeed, following the Labor Day weekend, Stillhouse stood at 8.59 feet low and was falling; Lake Belton stood at 8.92 feet low and was also falling.

The answer to this question revolves around the concept of watersheds.

Simply defined, a watershed is all of the land onto which a drop of rain can fall and, were it to flow downhill unhindered as runoff, wind up in a given body of water.

The reason our recent heavy rains have not caused our local lakes to rise is because most of the rain which fell on Central Texas wound up in the Nolan Creek watershed and flowed away from us to our south and east, not in the Leon River watershed, nor in the Lampasas River watershed.

In order for a rain to cause the water in Belton Lake or Stillhouse Hollow to rise, a few things must occur. First, the rain must be in sufficient quantity to cause runoff. Runoff can happen under a number of circumstances. One way for runoff to occur is for a steady rain to soak into the ground to the point where the ground becomes saturated to the point where it cannot absorb any more water. Once the ground is saturated, all additional rainfall will run off. This flows across the ground, headed downhill and winds up in gutters, ditches, intermittently flowing streams, creeks, rivers, etc.

Another scenario which leads to runoff is a hard, sudden, high volume rain event. In this case, the ground is not fully saturated, but the rate at which it can absorb water is surpassed by the amount of rain present to be absorbed.

Once runoff begins, the potential for our lakes to benefit begins. This runoff must occur within the geographic confines of each lake’s watershed. Although the accompanying maps graphically portray the Leon River watershed for Belton Lake and the Lampasas River watershed for Stillhouse Hollow Lake, generally speaking, the Leon River watershed extends to the northwest of Belton Lake toward Comanche in a swath roughly 30 miles wide.

The Lampasas River watershed also extends to the northwest of our area, from Stillhouse Hollow Lake out toward Goldthwaite and Evant, in a roughly 20 mile-wide swath.

The differences in topography, soil types, and land use account for the many differences in the two bodies of water, despite the fact that they are located so near to one another.

For example, Stillhouse Hollow is much clearer than Belton Lake. Part of the reason for this is that the waters of Belton Lake are more fertile because the water contains more nutrients which are washed in from the watershed. This greater nutrient load acts as fertilizer for algae, and allows more of it to grow in a cubic foot of water. This greater algae density makes the water darker and greener than the water at Stillhouse. Many other such examples of the differences between these two neighboring bodies of water exist, as well.

So, if we hope to see our reservoirs refill, we need to hope (I personally prefer prayer!) not only that rain continues to fall, but that it falls in the right places.

Now that we have visited the real reasons for our local lakes remaining below full pool, let us dispel some of the false beliefs out there. I have compiled this list based on the rumors I have heard local anglers express.

First, there is no work taking place on the dams necessitating that the Corps of Engineers keep the water level low to allow for such work.

Next, Stillhouse’s failure to rise with our recent rains is not due to excessive pumping of water down to Lake Georgetown.

Finally, the waters of Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes are not being released in order to drop the water level down in order to try to kill zebra mussels and/or hydrilla.

The bottom line is that Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes will only rise substantially when abundant rains cause abundant runoff within the watershed for each body of water.

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(1) comment

Hacksaw

Watershed is right!

Stillhouse sheds water daily. They pump it out of Stillhouse and into Lake Georgetown knowing Georgetown won't hold water.

In other words they just keep peeing down our backs while clamoring about the rain!

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