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LCRA: Frequently asked questions

Got a question about LCRA or its operations? Chances are we may have the information you need in one of these frequently asked questions, sorted by subject area. If you can't find your answer here, submit your question here.

If you have a question about an LCRA Park reservation, call: 855-392-7638. All other park information call 512-473-3366.

Electricity

Can I buy electricity from LCRA?
Where does LCRA get the power it sells to co-ops and cities in Central Texas?
How is electricity produced?
How does the electricity produced by LCRA get to my home?
How can I save energy?
I need information about the electric prices that LCRA charges my local electric utility.
I need information about a particular transmission project.

The Highland Lakes

What are the Highland Lakes?
Who paid for the dams and lakes?
Why did LCRA build the dams?
How much water is in the lakes?
Who owns the water in the lakes?
Who owns the land around the lakes?
Who is in charge of the lakes?
I have a question or comment about recreational activities on Lake Austin or Lady Bird Lake.
Where can I find information about historical lake elevations for the Highland Lakes?
Where can I find maps of Lake Travis or the other Highland Lakes?
What's the difference between the "head" and "tail" elevation readings at a dam?
What do I need to do to build a dock on my waterfront property?
Does LCRA maintain any of the Highland Lakes at a constant level?
Are tours of the dams available to the general public?

Water supply and utilities

Who uses water from the lakes?
Can anyone take water from the lakes?
Do I need a permit or contract to pump water from the Colorado River or Highland Lakes for my waterfront house or ranch?
Does LCRA serve my neighborhood?
I have a question about or problem with my LCRA water-utility service or bill.

Floods and droughts

What is the "Drought of Record"?
Aren't the dams supposed to prevent floods?
What is the difference between a floodplain and a flood pool?
Who sets the boundaries of the floodplains around the lakes?
Who regulates development in the floodplain?
What is a 100-year flood?
Who will notify me of severe weather that could cause a flood?
Do I need flood insurance?
I need information about proposed changes to the Lake Travis floodplain.
I have a question or comment about floodplains in my community or neighborhood.

Jobs and Hiring

How can I find out what positions LCRA currently has available?
What type of benefits does LCRA offer?
How long does the recruitment process take?
Will I hear back from LCRA after I submit my application?
Whom do I call if I have additional questions about jobs?
...more Jobs and Hiring FAQs

Parks

Which LCRA parks take reservations?
How and when can you make reservations?
Can I take a gun into an LCRA park if I have a gun permit?
Can we bring our dogs to LCRA parks? Are there special rules for dogs?
Which parks are recommended for birding?
...more Parks FAQ

Recreation on the Highland Lakes

What rules are in place for boats and other watercraft on the lakes?
How can I learn more about boating safety and the rules?
Whom do I call to report an accident, a crime or suspicious activities?
Who are the LCRA Rangers, and what authority do they have?
What can I do to keep the lakes safer?
How many parks does LCRA have?
I need to check on a reservation at an LCRA park.

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Electricity

Can I buy electricity from LCRA?
Not directly. LCRA sells the electric power it produces to electric cooperatives and city-owned utilities in Central Texas. See LCRA's wholesale electric customers.

Where does LCRA get the power it sells to co-ops and cities in Central Texas?
LCRA's power generation portfolio includes a traditional natural gas-fired plant (Sim Gideon at Bastrop), combined-cycle gas-fired plants (Lost Pines 1 Power Project at Bastrop and Thomas C. Ferguson at Marble Falls – which will come on-line this summer), a gas-fired "peaking" facility (Winchester Power Park in Fayette County) and a coal-fired power plant (Fayette Power Project in Fayette County). LCRA also purchases power from Sandy Creek Energy Center near Waco, and generates hydroelectric power at its Highland Lakes dams – Buchanan, Inks, Wirtz, Starcke, Mansfield and Tom Miller. See powering Central Texas.

How is electricity produced?
At gas- and coal-fired plants, fuel is used to produce steam. The steam turns a turbine and creates a magnetic field, which in turn produces electric energy. At hydroelectric facilities, the force of water turns a similar turbine. At wind farms, the windmills themselves serve as turbines.

How does the electricity produced by LCRA get to my home?
Electricity is carried from power plants through a transmission system that includes a series of wires and substations where voltage is increased for more efficient delivery. Eventually, the electricity reaches your utility's distribution system, which carries the energy to your home. See how does electricity get to your home?

How can I save energy?
For information on energy efficiency, go to energy conservation.

I need information about the electric prices that LCRA charges my local electric utility.
For competitive reasons, billing information between LCRA and its wholesale customers is considered confidential. Also, each wholesale customer sets its own rates and billing practices. Contact your local utility for any questions you have have about your electric bill. Check our list of wholesale customers if you need contact information for your local utility.

I need information about a particular transmission project.
Check the transmission projects page for information about major projects. If you need additional information about a project, call 800-776-5272, Ext. 6270, or contact us through Ask LCRA.

 

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Highland Lakes

What are the Highland Lakes?
LCRA created this chain of reservoirs on the Colorado River northwest of Austin from 1935 to 1951 to provide a stable water supply for the basin, protect Austin and downstream communities from the worst effects of Hill Country floods, and generate hydroelectric power. The two largest reservoirs, lakes Buchanan and Travis, store and supply water to meet household, agricultural, industrial and environmental needs throughout the basin. Lake Travis also is designed with extra capacity to hold floodwaters from Hill Country storms. The four smaller lakes pass through releases from Buchanan and Travis for downstream use.

Who paid for the dams and lakes?
LCRA has no taxing authority. To build the dams and lakes, LCRA borrowed money from the federal government, then repaid the loans with revenues from its sales of electricity and water. The Highland Lakes generate revenue through sales of water and hydroelectricity, and this money is used to operate and maintain the dams, hydrogeneration units and lakes. See the history of LCRA.

Why did LCRA build the dams?
Continuing cycles of flood and drought devastated property and inhibited the growth of Austin and other communities along the river. LCRA wasn't the first to try to harness the river to control floods and generate low-cost, reliable electricity. But earlier attempts to build dams that would withstand flooding failed, time and again. LCRA was the first with sufficient funding, legal authority, engineering skill, and political and community support to build a system of dams strong enough to last.

How much water is in the lakes?
When lakes Travis and Buchanan are full, they hold nearly 2.01 million acre-feet of water. (An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, enough water to supply an average suburban family of five for 18 months.) But Travis and Buchanan usually are not full. Depending on rainfall and water use, the amount of water stored in them can drop significantly in just a few months. Lakes Travis and Buchanan can fill up in a matter of hours or days during a flood. The pass-through lakes fluctuate, too, typically moving up and down slightly from one day to the next.

Who owns the water in the lakes?
The State of Texas. LCRA manages the water for the people of Texas. The state issues water rights that allow the holder to use a specific amount of water each year from the river and lakes. LCRA holds the largest block of water rights in the Colorado River basin.

Who owns the land around the lakes?
Most of the shoreline around the Highland Lakes is privately owned. LCRA owns 19 parks and recreation areas that occupy about 7,550 acres of land around the lakes, primarily Lake Travis.

Who is in charge of the lakes?
LCRA manages the Highland Lakes and the lower Colorado River and operates the lakes to manage water supplies and floods. LCRA also manages recreational activities on the lakes (with the exception of Lake Austin, which is managed by the City of Austin because it is in the city's boundaries).

I have a question or comment about recreational activities on Lake Austin or Lady Bird Lake.
The City of Austin has jurisdiction over these two lakes and sets any regulations or restrictions affecting recreation on these lakes. You can e-mail the City's Parks and Recreation Department, or call the department at 512-974-6700.

Where can I find information about historical lake elevations for the Highland Lakes?
Check the historical lake levels page and download a spreadsheet for any of the Highland Lakes. Each spreadsheet contains minimum, maximum and average elevations for each month since LCRA began operating the lake.

Where can I find maps of Lake Travis or the other Highland Lakes?
MAPSCO publishes a variety of maps of the upper Highland Lakes that are available at lake-area stores and marinas, or through MAPSCO's Web site.

What's the difference between the "head" and "tail" elevation readings at a dam?
The "head" is the elevation of the water that is impounded behind a dam, and the "tail" is the water's elevation in front of the dam. These two readings are elevations of two different lakes. At Mansfield Dam, for example, the "head" is the elevation of Lake Travis at the dam, while the "tail" reading reflects the elevation of Lake Austin in front of the dam. All readings are measured in feet above mean sea level.

What do I need to do to build a dock on my waterfront property?
Owning lakefront property does not automatically entitle you to build a dock or other floating structures. You need to verify that you own the land that is submerged under the water. (This is possible, given the way in which some lands along the Highland Lakes have been subdivided and sold or resold.) If you're not sure of the ownership, you can check with the property deeds filed with the county tax office. If the submerged land is owned by someone else, then you'll need to get the landowner's permission. Assuming the ownership issues are resolved, then you'll need to work with LCRA to ensure your dock meets safety standards. Check LCRA's boat dock standards for more information.

Does LCRA maintain any of the Highland Lakes at a constant level?
None of the Highland Lakes are "constant level." All of the lakes fluctuate in elevation – especially lakes Travis and Buchanan, which are LCRA's water-supply reservoirs.

Are tours of the dams available to the general public?
At this time, LCRA is not scheduling public tours of the dams.

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Water supply and utilities

Who uses water from the lakes?
Water stored in Lake Travis is released for cities, industries, power plants, farms, ranches and the Southeast Texas rice industry, a major economic resource in the region. The releases also maintain the flow of the lower Colorado River to support ecological systems in the river and in Matagorda Bay.

Can anyone take water from the lakes?
No. It's against the law to take water from the lakes without a water right permit or a contract with LCRA. The use of water from the lakes is highly regulated because the stored water in the lakes has been permitted to LCRA by the state.

Do I need a permit or contract to pump water from the Colorado River or Highland Lakes for my waterfront house or ranch?
If your property is on the Highland Lakes, you will need a Domestic Use Water Agreement. You can find more information about this agreement in the "Resources" column on the LCRA water contracts page. If you live along the Colorado River, you need to check with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to see if you need a permit to draw water from the river. You may still need a contract from LCRA if your water needs need to be met through releases from the Highland Lakes. For more information or to obtain an application packet, please contact us through Ask LCRA.

Does LCRA serve my neighborhood?
Check the list of LCRA Water and wastewater utility systems; each utility links to a map showing the utility's service area. If you're still not sure, contact us through Ask LCRA.

I have a question about or problem with my LCRA water-utility service or bill.
Check LCRA's residential water utilities for information on how to contact a customer service representative by phone or email.

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Floods and droughts

What is the "Drought of Record"?
The Drought of Record refers to the decade-long drought that affected Central Texas from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. No other drought in history was as severe or as long. LCRA's Water Management Plan uses this drought as the basis for setting lake storage amounts that serve as "trigger points" for the drought management plan. When the amount of water stored in lakes Buchanan and Travis falls to a combined total of 1.1 million acre-feet, LCRA begins curtailing interruptible water customers. Typically, the levels of the lakes at that storage amount would be about 1,001 feet above mean sea level for Lake Buchanan and about 645 feet above mean sea level for Lake Travis.

Aren't the dams supposed to prevent floods?
The dams can moderate the worst effects of floodwaters, but they cannot totally prevent floods. If you live in a designated floodplain along the Highland Lakes or Colorado River, you are at risk for flooding. See flood management.

What is the difference between a floodplain and a flood pool?
All of the Highland Lakes, the lower Colorado River and its tributaries, have floodplains, which are areas of land that are at risk for flooding. Lake Travis also has a flood pool, which is the area of the lake above elevation 681 feet that is used to store floodwaters.

Who sets the boundaries of the floodplains around the lakes?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with local governments, sets the 100-year floodplain boundaries through flood insurance rate studies.

Separate studies are done for individual communities, so floodplain levels can vary depending on an area's geographical and hydrological characteristics. LCRA's dam operating procedures also play a role in determining floodplains. If you want information about your property, contact your city or county floodplain administrator. Or visit FEMA's Web site for information on floodplain maps for your area.

Who regulates development in the floodplain?
City and county governments regulate development in their jurisdictions. LCRA does not regulate development in the floodplain. Because of the hazards of living in a floodplain, there may be local restrictions on new construction and repairs or improvements to existing homes in these areas.

What is a 100-year flood?
The term refers to the magnitude of flooding that has one chance in 100 of being equalled or exceeded in any one-year period. It does not refer to a flood that occurs every 100 years. There are many levels of floods: 500-year, 100-year, 20-year and 10-year levels, for example. These numbers indicate the likelihood of property flooding in a year's time. For example, if you live in the 20-year floodplain, there is a one in 20 (5 percent) chance every year that your property would be flooded. That percentage holds true every year, regardless of how many floods have occurred in previous years.

Who will notify me of severe weather that could cause a flood?
If you live on waterfront property or in a floodplain, you need to take the responsibility to keep yourself informed on weather and flood conditions. The best method is to buy and use a weather radio, which can be purchased at many stores that sell electronic appliances.

Local broadcasts of NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards now cover the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River basin, thanks to a partnership between LCRA and the National Weather Service. If the National Weather Service issues a severe weather or flood warning for your area, it will trigger an alarm on your weather radio, followed immediately by emergency information.

Do I need flood insurance?
LCRA recommends that you buy separate flood insurance if you live in any floodplain elevation up to the 500-year floodplain. Remember, being flooded once doesn't lower your chances of being flooded from year to year. If your property floods one year, it's just as likely to happen again the next year.

I need information about proposed changes to the Lake Travis floodplain.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has adopted as the new Lake Travis floodplain elevation 722 feet above mean sea level (msl), 6 feet above the previous elevation of 716 feet msl. The 722 elevation went into effect on Sept. 26, 2008. If you need more information, check with the floodplain administrator for Travis County or your local community, as listed on the Texas Colorado River Floodplain Coalition (TCRFC) Web site. You can also check the TCRFC Web site for updates. LCRA does not set or revise floodplains. FEMA is working with local communities to review and revise floodplains throughout the lower Colorado River basin.

I have a question or comment about floodplains in my community or neighborhood.
Check with the floodplain administrator for your local county or community, as listed on the Texas Colorado River Floodplain Coalition (TCRFC) Web site. You can also check the TCRFC Web site for updates. LCRA does not set or revise floodplains. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with local communities to review and revise floodplains throughout the lower Colorado River basin.

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Jobs and Hiring

How can I find out what positions LCRA currently has available?
Visit our job aplication website and you will see a complete list of all of the open positions with LCRA.

What type of benefits does LCRA offer?
LCRA offers a competitive benefits program that includes comprehensive health, dental, vision and legal insurance plans. We also provide life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, flexible health care and dependent care spending accounts, short-term and long-term disability protection, and an employer-matched 401(k) plan. In addition, we have an educational assistance and tuition reimbursement program and provide paid leave (vacation, sick, holiday, etc.).

How long does the recruitment process take?
The process will vary by position.  It can take several weeks depending on the number of applications received and the complexity of the selection process.  If you are selected to go further in the process, you will receive an email notification or telephone call.  Not all applicants are contacted.

Will I hear back from LCRA after I submit my application?
You can view your application status by logging in to LCRA's applicant system.

Whom do I call if I have additional questions about jobs?
Call LCRA Human Resources at 800-776-5272, Ext. 4004 (or 512-473-4004 in Austin).

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Parks

Which LCRA parks take reservations?


How and when can you make reservations?

  • Reservations can be made by calling Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) at 512-389-8900. They keep regular hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and are closed on Saturday and Sunday. They are closed on all major holidays.
  • There is a $5 nonrefundable service charge per site. To better serve our customers, LCRA partnered with TPWD to use its reservation system for our developed parks.
  • If you want to make reservations for any of the LCRA parks listed below, 48 hours notice is required. If it is within 48 hours of arrival, campers will be checked in on a first-come first-served basis at the park. Within 48 hours of your arrival time, you are encouraged to call the individual parks to check availability before driving to the park.
  • For Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park's lodge facilities and meeting rooms, call 800-977-0081 or 512-334-2070, but for camping reservations call 512-389-8900.

Can I take a gun into an LCRA park if I have a gun permit?
Registered, concealed handguns are permissible in LCRA parks IF the person in possession of the concealed handgun has a valid concealed handgun holder permit issued by the State of Texas.

Can we bring our dogs to LCRA parks? Are there special rules for dogs?
All pets must be kept on leashes at all times while in the designated camping and picnicking areas. Outside the designated camping and picnicking areas, pets must be kept under their owners' direct control.

If you are planning to stay in a cabin at one of our parks, contact the park directly for specific rules regarding pets indoors.

Which parks are recommended for birding?
All LCRA parks have various species of birds to watch. However, two parks are known especially for birding opportunities.

  • The region where Matagorda Bay Nature Park is located on the Gulf Coast has an international reputation for birding and is a popular flyway for millions of migrating birds.
  • Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park on Lake Buchanan is a popular park to encounter protected bird species such as the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. Keep in mind that half of the park trails are closed from March until the end of August to protect the habitat of these birds during breeding season. You may also go on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise for an opportunity to spot the American bald eagle.

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Recreation on the Highland Lakes

What rules are in place for boats and other watercraft on the lakes?
Boating and recreation laws and regulations have been adopted by the Texas Legislature and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. LCRA's Rangers and state, county and city law enforcement officers patrol the lakes and enforce these laws and rules. LCRA also implemented guidelines to control noise and other problems resulting from recreational activities on the lakes.

How can I learn more about boating safety and the rules?
LCRA offers safety classes to help boaters improve their skills and knowledge of boating laws. See the calendar for boating safety classes. In addition to earning a safe-boating certificate, class participants can lower their insurance rates. Most boat insurance companies offer lower rates to boaters who successfully complete the course.

Whom do I call to report an accident, a crime or suspicious activities?
If you are involved in an accident or witness an accident or a crime, call 911.

Who are the LCRA Rangers, and what authority do they have?
LCRA Rangers are licensed peace officers. They provide law enforcement, security, communications and emergency management throughout the area served by the Lower Colorado River Authority. The department works around-the-clock to detect, deter and defeat any threats to LCRA infrastructure. These services protect employees and guests, facilities, parklands, lakes and the area's natural resources. Learn more about LCRA's Public Safety operations.

What can I do to keep the lakes safer?
Use common sense when out on the lakes. Traveling at a high rate of speed may be OK on a day when there is little traffic, but it's probably not safe on a holiday weekend when lake traffic is high or at night when visibility is poor. Pay attention to what's going on around you. Report unsafe activities to lake patrol officers. Don't drink while operating any watercraft. And make sure you have enough life vests on board for everyone in the boat. See water recreation and safety.

How many parks does LCRA have?
LCRA owns or operates parks and recreation areas from the Texas Hill Country to Matagorda Bay. LCRA has 44 park locations throughout the lower Colorado River basin. More than half are managed by other city or county entities making open space and park amenities for everyone to enjoy.

I need to check on a reservation at an LCRA park.
Call 855-392-7638 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; closed for New Years Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

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