LCRA updating Water Management Plan for Highland Lakes

Plan determines how water is allocated during times of drought

UPDATE ON WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN: The Lower Colorado River Authority Board of Directors will consider a proposal for revising its application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to amend its Water Management Plan on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Here is the agen​da item and a memo on the staff-proposed changes to the pending Water Management Plan based on the stakeholder process.

LCRA staff presented the revised proposal during the Water Operations Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16.

The LCRA Board will consider the proposal at the Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17, which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will be at LCRA offices at 3700 Lake Austin Blvd., Austin.


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LCRA manages lakes Travis and Buchanan under a state-approved Water Management Plan. LCRA is considering updates to its 2012 application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to amend the current plan, which was approved by the TCEQ in 2010.

LCRA submitted an application to amend the plan to TCEQ in 2012. In May 2014, TCEQ recommended LCRA consider further changes to its 2012 application. Read the TCEQ draft report.

The 2012 application includes provisions to give LCRA more flexibility to respond to droughts by adding more trigger points during the year to determine the availability of water for agriculture than are included in the 2010 plan. The 2012 application also limited the overall amount of water available to agriculture in any year.

LCRA's Board of Directors adopted the 2012 application to amend the plan on Feb. 22, 2012, and it was submitted to TCEQ on March 12, 2012.

TCEQ declared the plan administratively complete on April 19, 2012, and began conducting technical review. During that process:

  • On May 31, 2012, LCRA submitted an updated plan and technical information to TCEQ to address questions from the state agency.
  • In August 2012, TCEQ requested more information from LCRA, and LCRA responded on Sept. 10, 2012.
  • 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.
  • In June 2013, TCEQ announced plans to conduct further review of the proposed plan due to the ongoing severe drought conditions.
  • TCEQ held a public hearing to hear from stakeholders on June 26, 2013.  View the hearing.
  • In May 2014, the TCEQ executive director issued a draft report that included further recommended changes to the proposed plan. Read a summary of the executive director's draft report.


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 in 2011 on many of the recommended changes that went into the Water Management Plan proposed in 2012. LCRA accepted public comment on the plan and reviewed about 450 written comments before approving it and filing the application in 2012. Continued drought and three years of suspension of interruptible supply have brought about wide recognition that further changes to that filing are warranted.

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 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 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.


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