To secure a continued water supply from Lake Travis in the thick of ongoing drought conditions, Cedar Park City Council approved the construction and recommissioning of a temporary floating raw water intake system Feb. 8.

Some context

The continued decline in Lake Travis water levels prompted city officials to start the process of recommissioning the temporary intake system ahead of summertime.

Lake Travis levels are at 631.5 feet, and the temporary intake system will need to operate should levels fall below 618 feet, said Eric Rauschuber, director of public works and utilities.

“The engineering is complete, the drought persists, and it’s becoming a necessary time for recommissioning,” he said.

The backstory

In 2009, Cedar Park and Leander entered into an agreement to construct a drought contingency raw water intake barge and underwater pipeline to deliver raw water to the cities’ respective water treatment plants when levels were low on Lake Travis, according to city documents.

The intake barge was necessary due to the severe drought that took place between 2008-2015. During the time, Lake Travis levels were predicted to drop below 618 feet.

Construction on the barge wrapped up in 2013, and it had a total pumping capacity of 30 million gallons per day, according to city of Cedar Park documents. Cedar Park receives 21 million gallons per day, and Leander receives 9 mgd.

In 2015, Lake Travis' water levels improved with rains, causing the barge to be decommissioned, removed from the water and stored, according to previous Community Impact reporting.

Last year in May—due to another bout of declining water levels and drought conditions—leaders in Cedar Park and Leander approved the design and engineering for the reconstruction of the intake system, according to city documents.

The takeaway

With forecast drought conditions and low lake levels, city leaders are recommending expediting the process of getting the intake system back in service. Officials said the barge will need to be operational by the end of the summer or early fall.

Rauschuber said the construction of the intake system is expected to take five to six months. It will cost $6 million total, with Cedar Park’s portion being $4.2 million.