The Lower Colorado River Authority is considering asking the state for permission to reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers next year because of the ongoing drought and dropping lake levels. In a press release, the LCRA stated:
This comes as new projections show that the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan, the region's water supply reservoirs, could drop to 640,000 to 680,000 acre-feet by January 1. This would move the lakes very close to the 600,000 acre-foot level that would trigger a declaration that conditions are worse than during the worst drought in the state's history, the 10-year drought of the 1940s and 50s.
"These are unprecedented conditions, and it's important to evaluate options to protect our municipal and industrial customers while balancing the needs of agriculture," said General Manager Becky Motal.
Two of the options the LCRA is considering hinge on the amount of water in Lakes Travis and Buchanan on January 1, 2012.
- One proposal is to cut off water for agricultural customers if the water stored in the lakes is less than 920,000 acre-feet. And if the long range forecast calls for dry or average weather.
- Water will be released to farmers if the amount in the lakes is more than 850,000 acre-feet and if the forecast changes to call for more rain than expected
As of last week, the LCRA said the lakes were at 812,000 acre-feet combined.
In a series reported by KUT and the Texas Tribune rice farmers stated that their livelihoods are at stake.
The LCRA's Water Operations Committee meets today at 3 p.m. and will take public input. The LCRA Board will take up the matter tomorrow and there will be another chance for public input.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has the final say and would have to approve any of the LCRA's plans.