Watering restrictions took effect Monday after the combined storage level of water in lakes Travis and Buchanan dropped below 1.4 million acre-feet, the benchmark at which Stage 1 of the city of Austin's Drought Contingency Plan is triggered.

Previously, the city had been operating at the Conservation Stage of the plan for two years.

Per the plan, watering via automatic irrigation systems is now restricted between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., two hours fewer than allowed under the Conservation Stage.

"Making this adjustment, watering only in the early morning or late evening hours when temperatures are coolest, will reduce unnecessary water loss through evaporation and help with Austin's water conservation efforts," Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said in a news release Monday.

All other watering restrictions remain the same under both the Conversation Stage and Stage 1 of the plan.

According to the same release, while some rain has fallen in Central Texas this year, most has only soaked into the parched soil without funneling through to the streams and rivers that replenish the lakes.

"With the triple digit temperatures and ongoing dry conditions, we could be heading into a serious situation," Austin Water Assistant Director Daryl Slusher said. "We encourage folks to respond like they did in the last drought and do everything possible to conserve water."

Slusher attributed the current drought to climate change.