LCRA’s Board of Directors has approved a pilot project to determine if two gravel pits in Colorado County can serve as downstream water supply reservoirs.
The project was approved at a special Board meeting on Tuesday, April 10. It involves pumping water into the pits from the Colorado River to see if the water can be stored there for future use. This project is part of LCRA’s commitment to obtain 100,000 acre-feet of new water supply by 2017.
“LCRA is looking at all possible options for new water supplies,” General Manager Becky Motal said. “If this project works, it would be a small but important part of that larger goal.”
The two pits are in the Garwood Irrigation Division. The larger gravel pit covers more than 100 acres. The smaller pit covers about 40 acres. Combined, they can hold about 2,000 acre-feet of water.
The pits are on private property. In exchange for allowing LCRA to use the gravel pits, the landowner will be allowed to use LCRA’s canal system to pump groundwater for irrigating the landowner’s fields.
LCRA plans to fill the pits several times over the course of the irrigation season. No water from the Highland Lakes will be sent downstream specifically for use in the pilot program. The water will be pumped from the pits to the irrigation canals to determine if the pits can make the irrigation system more efficient. LCRA won’t know if the gravel pits can achieve that goal until the testing is complete and irrigation season is over. That occurs in mid October.
Because of the drought, LCRA will not send Highland Lakes water to farmers in the Lakeside, Gulf Coast and Pierce Ranch irrigation operations this year. Farmers in the Garwood irrigation operation will still receive some water from the Highland Lakes this year, up to 19,579 acre-feet, because of their contract with LCRA.
If this pilot project works, it is possible that similar projects could be conducted at other downstream gravel pits.
“Finding new water supplies won’t be an easy task,” Motal said. “But we’re committed to looking at all possibilities and doing the work necessary to ensure our customers continue to have a reliable water supply in the future.”