LCRA updating Water Management Plan for Highland Lakes

Plan determines how water is allocated during times of drought

UPDATE:Most farmers downstream of Austin are going without Highland Lakes water in 2014 for the third year in a row due to the prolonged drought throughout the lower Colorado River basin. The cutoff is the result of emergency drought relief approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Feb. 26 and extended on June 4 through July 25. As of March 1, LCRA also is requiring its firm customers, such as cities and water districts, to limit lawn watering to no more than once a week. Read more.


On June 3, 2013, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) sent LCRA a letter saying it would conduct further evaluation of LCRA’s pending Water Management Plan for operating lakes Travis and Buchanan, the region’s major water reservoirs.

As outlined in a letter from TCEQ Executive Director Zak Covar to LCRA General Manager Becky Motal, the evaluation will include data collection, a stakeholder meeting, and additional reports and modeling. The review will likely take about a year. LCRA fully supports TCEQ’s decision and will assist TCEQ as needed.

LCRA’s Board of Directors adopted the new plan on Feb. 22, 2012, before submitting it to TCEQ for final review and approval. The plan gives LCRA more flexibility to respond to severe droughts by adding more trigger points during the year to determine how much water is available for agriculture. It also limits the overall amount of water available to agriculture in any year.

LCRA submitted the plan to TCEQ for review on March 12, 2012. TCEQ declared the plan administratively complete on April 19, 2012, and began conducting technical review. Technical review gives TCEQ an opportunity to review the plan and request additional information or clarifications. During that process:

  • On May 31, 2012, LCRA submitted an amended plan and technical information to the TCEQ to address questions from the state agency;
  • In August 2012, the TCEQ requested more information from LCRA, and LCRA responded on Sept. 10, 2012; and
  • In November 2012, TCEQ sent a draft final order to LCRA for review and comment.  LCRA commented on the draft final order on March 15, 2013.

The proposed plan, as originally submitted to TCEQ on March 12, 2012, as well as the written public comments and the exhibits, are available here.

WMP Background

To assist with the update submitted to TCEQ in 2012, as in previous updates, LCRA assembled an advisory committee to represent the diverse interests that rely on Highland Lakes water. The advisory committee included representatives from cities, industry, lake area businesses and residents, the environment and farmers. The committee began its work in July 2010 and spent more than a year investigating and discussing how to best balance the demands on the Highland Lakes.

The committee came to a consensus and near consensus on many of the recommended changes in the proposed Water Management Plan. LCRA accepted public comment on the plan and reviewed about 450 written comments before approving it.

LCRA's Water Management Plan is the only one of its kind in the state. It was required by the 1989 court settlement that determined the water rights for the Highland Lakes. The state approved the first Water Management Plan in 1989. Updates were approved in 1992, 1999 and 2010. TCEQ approved the current version of the Water Management Plan on Jan. 27, 2010.

The Water Management Plan governs LCRA's operation of the Highland Lakes to meet the needs of major water users throughout the lower Colorado River basin. Specifically, the Water Management Plan prescribes how to allocate water during water supply shortages. During severe drought, the plan requires the curtailment or cutback of Highland Lakes water for downstream agriculture so that water will be available for the basic needs of cities, businesses and industries. Under the plan, LCRA and its customers are required to take specific actions at designated points, known as "trigger points," as water storage levels drop. The plan also prescribes how LCRA must provide water from the lakes to help meet the environmental needs of the lower Colorado River and Matagorda Bay at these various trigger points.

​Emergency drought relief



Temporary Amendment to Drought Contingency Plan

LCRA's Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) is in Chapter 4 of LCRA's Water Management Plan. In November 2013, the LCRA Board adopted a temporary amendment to the DCP to help address the severe drought. The amendment would require firm customers such as cities to implement maximum once-a-week watering schedules if combined storage is less than 1.1 million acre-feet on March 1, 2014, and LCRA has cut off Highland Lakes water to most downstream farmers.


Water Management Plan Advisory Committee Meetings

June 28, 2011, meeting materials:



July 12, 2011, meeting materials:



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