Water Management Plan for the Highland Lakes

Plan determines how water is allocated during times of drought

LCRA manages lakes Travis and Buchanan under a state-approved Water Management Plan.

In November 2015, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved an updated plan that will govern LCRA’s operation of the lakes starting in January 2016.

The updated plan better protects the water supply for firm customers – mainly cities and industrial users – and allows LCRA to more quickly adapt its operations as drought conditions change. The plan establishes three sets of operating conditions to determine the availability of interruptible stored water, which is primarily used by agricultural customers in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties.

It also sets two dates – March 1 and July 1 – for determining the amount of interruptible stored water available for first and second crop, instead of the 2010 plan’s Jan. 1 date used for determining availability for both crops.

Water Management Plan background

LCRA's Water Management Plan is the only one of its kind in the state. It is required by a 1988 court order that determined water rights for the Highland Lakes and the lower Colorado River basin. The state approved the first Water Management Plan in 1989. Updates were approved in 1991, 1992, 1999, 2010 and 2015. TCEQ took action to approve the current version of the Water Management Plan on Nov. 4, 2015. The plan will govern operations starting in January 2016.

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.

During drought, the plan requires the curtailment or cutback of interruptible stored water from the Highland Lakes for downstream agriculture so that firm water supplies will be available for the basic needs of cities, businesses and industries. 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 various trigger points.

Almost immediately after TCEQ approved the Water Management in 2010, LCRA began the process of updating it.

  • In 2010, LCRA brought together a diverse group of people representing various interests that depend on Highland Lakes water. The advisory committee included members representing cities, industry, lake area businesses and residents, agriculture and the environment. See the advisory committee meetings archives.
  • On May 31, 2012, LCRA submitted an updated plan and technical information to TCEQ to address questions from the state agency.
  • In spring 2013, TCEQ released a draft final order for review and comment and conducted a public hearing for stakeholder input in June 2013. Based on public input , TCEQ announced plans to conduct further review of the proposed plan due to the ongoing severe drought conditions.
  • In May 2014, the TCEQ executive director issued a draft report that included further recommended changes to the proposed plan. Read TCEQ’s summary of the executive director's draft report.
  • In August 2014, the LCRA Board of Directors adopted a framework for the proposed plan based on TCEQ’s recommended changes. The Board also directed staff to seek input from stakeholders.
  • In September 2014, the LCRA Board unanimously approved a proposal for revising its application to amend the Water Management Plan. Read the agenda item.
  • In October 2014, LCRA submitted an amended and restated application to TCEQ for action.
  • In May 2015, the LCRA Board adopted a revised Firm Customer Drought Contingency Plan. On May 21, 2015, LCRA filed an addendum to incorporate the plan into LCRA's pending Water Management Plan application.
  • The TCEQ executive director issued a draft permit and proposed order in July 2015, which was later revised slightly based on additional public input.
  • In November 2015, TCEQ approved the revised order and updated plan.