LCRA's Board of Directors will discuss and consider the proposed Water Management Plan for lakes Buchanan and Travis next week.
The latest version of the plan contains proposed changes incorporating public comment. LCRA has posted the latest version of the plan with the proposed changes in redline form -- and the nearly 450 written public comments -- at LCRA.org.
LCRA's Water Management Plan determines how water is allocated from lakes Buchanan and Travis, the region's water supply reservoirs. The proposed changes to the plan would allow LCRA more flexibility to respond to severe droughts.
"This is an adaptive plan that allows LCRA to be more responsive to changing conditions on the Highland Lakes," LCRA General Manager Becky Motal said. "The Highland Lakes are vital to everyone in the region, and the proposed Water Management Plan reflects their important role."
The Board will discuss the plan at its Water Operations Committee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21, and possibly take action on the plan at its regular Board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Because of the public's interest in the plan, LCRA is asking those who wish to comment to do so at Tuesday's committee meeting. That will give the Board time to hear the comments before considering the plan Wednesday.
Both meetings will be in the LCRA Board Room at 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. in Austin. Overflow seating will be available in LCRA's Redbud Center across the street at 3601 Lake Austin Blvd. Visitors can view the meeting at the Redbud Center, but need to attend the meeting in the Board Room if they want to address the Board in person. Tuesday's committee meeting starts at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday's Board meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.
LCRA has used a state-approved Water Management Plan to manage lakes Buchanan and Travis since 1989. The plan was updated in 1992, 1999 and 2010. Once the Board approves the plan, it will be sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for final approval.
A 16-member advisory committee assisted LCRA by making recommendations on proposed updates to the plan. That committee worked for more than a year on its recommendations. The committee was made up of members representing the major, and sometimes competing, interests that rely on the lakes' water: cities and industry, environment, lake area businesses and residents, and agriculture.
Among the changes proposed for the new plan are:
- Using two trigger points during the year to determine how much stored water from the lakes is available for agriculture, mostly downstream rice farming. One trigger point, Jan. 1, would be used for the first rice crop and a second, June 1, would be used for the second crop. The current plan contains only a Jan. 1 trigger point.
- Eliminating "open supply," which is the practice of making unlimited water from the Highland Lakes available for downstream agriculture when the lakes are above a defined trigger point. In the future, the amount of stored water available from the lakes for downstream agricultural operations would be limited at all times.
- Asking firm water customers, mostly cities and industry, to reduce water use consistent with their drought plans only after interruptible water from the Highland Lakes for agriculture is restricted. Current practice can result in LCRA requesting firm customers implement voluntary conservation before agricultural water is restricted. Firm customers pay considerably more for their water than farmers and other "interruptible" customers.
- Using two different projected future demand levels in the new plan to set triggers based on the amount of water used by cities and industry. The current plan is based on a single demand projection looking 10 years in the future. This new approach responds to actual growth in water use and could make more water available for agricultural needs until it is needed by cities and industry.
- Incorporating new scientific studies that better reflect the needs of the river and bay environment.
All the redline changes in the proposed plan were recommended by LCRA staff after reviewing the public comments. The changes were recommended because they improve the understanding of the plan and are consistent with Board policy direction.