AUSTIN (KXAN) - A new place to water ski opened in Austin this week, even in the middle of a record setting drought.
Water levels at Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are sinking to lows not seen since the 1950s.
The fun and entertainment on those lakes are also disappearing just as fast as the water.
Yet in a remote area in southeast Travis County about five miles from the Circuit of the Americas track, there is a small lake where people can water ski and wakeboard.
And they do not even need a boat.
“It is becoming more popular in Texas and across the world,” said Earl Ball, the general manager at Quest ATX cable ranch.
If anyone would know, it would be Ball. He sells the ski cable systems for a living and came to Austin to open the new park which debuted over the Labor Day holiday and opens full time to the public this week.
Skiers and wakeboarders are pulled across the lake by a series of towers and cables that stretch over the water and through jumping ramps which are placed throughout the course.
It is the ideal setting for anyone looking to get involved in the sport competitively and Ball sees potential with the recently announced X-Games arrival in Austin.
“The more of these cables that pop up, the more people start wakeboarding and it is a lot of fun.”
But the most important element to water sports and to Ball’s business is water.
Unfortunately, Texas is short of that particular resource due to a record-setting drought.
To keep the water high, Quest ATX plans on a couple of different tactics.
First, they dammed off half of the lake near FM 1625 and US 183.
But they also have filed a permit which would allow them to use a well and dip into the Saline Edwards Aquifer for up to 2 million gallons of water a year.
“It really only will cover the amount of water that evaporates during the summer,” said Ball. The lake itself is approximately 45 million gallons large and Ball says even the occasional rains and their runoff will recharge most of the lake.
The water from the saline aquifer is not drinkable and not potable. Still, the idea does not sit well with those who have the environment in mind.
“We do not know what the impact is going to be,” said Roy Waley with the Sierra Club. “It just sends a terrible message during a time of record drought.”
The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will review the application from Quest ATX and determine whether it gets approval. A public hearing has been set for their next meeting on September 12th.
Waley hopes the BSEACD takes a long, hard, look before granting the permit for what he feels is an unnecessary use of the saline aquifer.
“In the event of a major flood event, what happens if it overflows and washes down stream?” asked Waley who worries about the potential for runoff contamination in other groundwater lakes and creeks.
He also says the location of the lake could pose problems in the future. The COTA track is expected to bring growth to the area and development to the area.
The potential for the saline aquifer to one day be treated and used as a source of drinking water is also something he hopes the conservation district takes into account.
“We hope they will do their due diligence and their research to see what is in front of them and what is to come.”
But Ball says Quest ATX was very careful when filing the permit.
“We definitely went through a lot of the environmental things that are necessary to make sure we are using the water for the right purpose,” said Ball. “We are big fans of the environment. We have a lot of property out here and we want to keep it as natural as possible.”
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