Texas
4:52 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

LCRA Plan May Cut Off Rice Farmers to Preserve Austin's Water (Update)

Update: The LCRA approved a drought plan this afternoon that may mean rice farmers downstream of Austin will go without water again in 2013.

StateImpact Texas writes:

The Highland Lakes of Buchanan and Travis, vital reservoirs for Central Texas, have suffered from record low inflows in recent years, beginning in 2006. They’re currently only 41 percent full. If they don’t rise to the level of 42 percent full by midnight March 1, water will not go downstream to most rice farmers this year.

Read more at StateImpact Texas.

Original post (11:33 a.m.): With persistent drought conditions affecting Central Texas and the entire state, the Lower Colorado River Authority could make a decision today that could mean water from the Highland Lakes will be cut off to rice farmers downstream.

The LCRA Board of Directors will discuss “a request for emergency drought relief to further protect municipal and industrial customers in the event drought conditions do not improve in 2013” – shutting off water to rice farmers to protect Austin customers.  The new proposal would have a deadline of March 1st, like last year.

"As this historic drought continues, it becomes more and more apparent that we must do whatever it takes to protect the firm water supplies for the City of Austin and other municipalities,” LCRA board chair Timothy Timmerman says.

As StateImpact Texas reports, the plan revised today is essentially the same plan approved in 2012. It resulted in “most rice farmers downstream being cut off from water for the first time in history”.

The LCRA had planned to release water if Lakes Travis and Buchanan were 39 percent full. But under pressure from state senators Troy Fraser and Kirk Watson, they’re now considering raising that standard to 42 percent.

That means if Lakes Travis and Buchanan are not at least 42 percent full by March 1, water would be cut off again to most rice farmers downstream. Right now, those lakes are 41 percent full.

The meeting takes place at the LCRA headquarters in Austin, at 1 p.m.