Leadership Austin kicks off its 2013-14 season with a panel to discuss water issues

A new season of Engage Breakfasts, presented by Leadership Austin, starts off the 2013-14 season Oct. 2 with a look at the Central Texas drought and its effect on Austin.

"I think for everyone here, water is in the top three [important issues]—water, transportation and health care," Leadership Austin interim CEO Christopher Kennedy said.

Kennedy added that the discussion is going to focus on what would happen if drought conditions become worse than the drought of record, the worst water shortage in state history and the gauge used to measure subsequent shortages.

Leadership Austin is a nonprofit organization that seeks to build civic engagement and connect leaders in the community.

The first breakfast will include Heather Harward, founder and executive director of H2O4Texas Coalition; Greg Meszaros, director of Austin Water Utility; and Becky Motal, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority. KXAN anchor Leslie Rhode will moderate the discussion.

Motal said the drought is serious and affecting people throughout Central Texas, but Austin has had the benefit of periodic rain. She mentioned one noticeable sign of the drought for Austinites is dying trees.

"For us, we're losing some oak trees," Motal said. "It's really affecting the native trees, and that's a great concern."

Motal said even though drought conditions are nearing the worst they have ever been, Austin will not run out of water.

"We're in a serious drought," she said. "There's a water-management plan that contemplates that there will be time when there is drought and the lakes will go down. That's the whole history of why the lakes were built, to catch flood waters when it does flood—and it will flood—and then to use that water and draw it down when it doesn't rain. So there is adequate water."

Kennedy said this season of the Engage Breakfast is going to be different from previous years through fewer speakers, more pointed topics and making a clear call-to-action.

"I think the major shift is, what is the community not talking about around a topic area," Kennedy said.

The breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m. in the Kodosky Lounge at The Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Drive. Tickets are $25.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.leadershipaustin.org/program/engage/upcoming.


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