Agricultural irrigation

Network of canals offers water supplies to Gulf Coast counties

LCRA irrigation service areas. Enlarge map.

Irrigation for agricultural operations has been used for more than a century in the lower Colorado River basin.

When water is available, LCRA supplies water to portions of Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado counties. The irrigation facilities are organized into four service areas — Gulf Coast, Lakeside, Garwood and Pierce Ranch. (LCRA operates the 11 major pumping plants and a 1,100-mile network of irrigation canals in the Gulf Coast, Lakeside and Garwood systems, while Pierce Ranch is privately operated.) Together, the service areas are capable of transporting water to 91,500 acres each year. LCRA holds senior downstream water rights allowing it to pump water directly from the Colorado River to serve customers.

During the height of the growing season, river flows can be insufficient for agricultural operations. LCRA can make up the deficit by sending water downstream from lakes Travis and Buchanan, as prescribed by the state-approved Water Management Plan. Because of the severe drought, LCRA, with permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, cut off Highland Lakes interruptible stored water to most interruptible customers in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

A surcharge on water provided under HB 1437 for Williamson County helps fund water conservation projects in the LCRA irrigation divisions.