LCRA: Frequently asked questions
What is LCRA?
The Texas Legislature created the Lower Colorado River Authority in 1934. LCRA provides public power, manages the lower Colorado River, builds and operates transmission lines across the state, and more.
LCRA’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for the Texans we serve through water stewardship, energy and community service. For more on LCRA, see the About section of lcra.org.
The Highland Lakes
What are the Highland Lakes?
The Highland Lakes are a chain of lakes on the Colorado River northwest of Austin. LCRA built the lakes from 1935 to 1951 to provide a reliable water supply for the basin, protect Austin and downstream communities from the worst effects of Hill Country floods, and generate hydroelectric power. The two largest reservoirs, lakes Buchanan and Travis, store and supply water to meet household, industrial, agricultural and environmental needs throughout the basin. Lake Travis also is designed to temporarily hold floodwaters in its flood pool. The four smaller lakes – Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls and Austin – are known as “pass-through lakes” and have no extra capacity to hold floodwaters.
How much water is in the lakes?
Who owns the water in the lakes?
The State of Texas owns the water, and LCRA manages the water for the people of Texas. The state issues water rights that allow the holder to use a specific amount of water each year from the river and lakes. LCRA holds the largest block of water rights in the Colorado River basin.
Where can I find information about historical lake elevations for the Highland Lakes?
The historical lake levels webpage includes historical data for each of the lakes. Each spreadsheet contains minimum, maximum and average elevations for each month since LCRA began operating the lake.
Who owns the land around the lakes?
Most of the shoreline around the Highland Lakes is privately owned. LCRA owns 26 parks and recreation areas that occupy almost 10,000 acres around the Highland Lakes.
What do I need to do to build a dock on my waterfront property?
Owning lakefront property does not automatically entitle you to build a dock or other floating structures. You need to verify you own the land that is submerged under the water by checking property deeds filed with the county tax office. If the submerged land is owned by someone else, you’ll need the landowner’s permission to construct a dock. Docks are required to meet LCRA’s Safety Standards for Residential Docks on the Highland Lakes.
When is the next lake lowering?
To find out when a lake lowering is scheduled, check the LCRA lake lowering page.
Who has jurisdiction over recreational activities on Lake Austin or Lady Bird Lake?
The City of Austin has jurisdiction over these lakes and sets any regulations or restrictions affecting recreation there. You can email the Austin Parks and Recreation Department or call the department at 512-974-6700 for more information.
Will LCRA remove debris from along the lakeshore or river channel?
The majority of the land along the shoreline and beneath the lake surface is privately owned. LCRA does not remove debris from private property. Removal of trash and debris from the shoreline is up to the property owner or property association.
LCRA typically only addresses debris issues if the debris is on LCRA property. If it is in the main river channel, LCRA will mark or remove it if it poses a hazard to navigation. To report navigational hazards in the Highland Lakes, Contact LCRA.
Does LCRA allow hunting on the lakes or in the riverbed?
Hunting is not allowed on LCRA lands or water, including the Highland Lakes. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens enforce state hunting regulations in areas downstream of Lake Travis and upstream from Lake Buchanan. The City of Austin also enforces hunting regulations on Lake Austin.
What are the rules for boating on Highland Lakes?
Can anyone place a no-wake buoy in one of the Highland Lakes near their dock or property?
Shoreline property owners may place U.S. Coast Guard-approved no-wake buoys up to 50 feet beyond their shore or dock without a permit from LCRA. Regulatory buoys on the Highland Lakes must have a permit from LCRA. Read the LCRA Buoy Permit Guide for more information about placing buoys on the Highland Lakes.
A channel marker or hazard buoy in one of the Highland Lakes is damaged or missing. How can I get that fixed?
LCRA will investigate and replace damaged or missing buoys or channel markers as needed. To report a missing or malfunctioning buoy, call Chris Hernandez in LCRA Water Surface Management at 512-578-4785.
I have noticed a boating hazard in one of the Highland Lakes. How do I report that?
To report navigational hazards in the Highland Lakes, submit information about the type of hazard and its location to Contact LCRA. LCRA’s Water Surface Management team will investigate and mark or remove the hazard if it interferes with navigation.
Does LCRA maintain any of the Highland Lakes at a constant level?
None of the Highland Lakes are constant-level lakes. Lakes Travis and Buchanan are the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes. The lakes capture water during rainy times, and hold it for later use during drier times. They are designed to fluctuate. The smaller, pass-through lakes – Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls and Austin – are generally operated within a small range, however they can fluctuate, especially during a flood.
What rules apply to on-site sewage facilities (septic systems) near the Highland Lakes?
For more information, email [email protected] or call 512-578-3216. Choose option 1 for general questions about septic histories and inspections.
I am considering buying land along the Highland Lakes. How can I find information on an existing OSSF system?
You can obtain information on an existing system by emailing [email protected] or calling the OSSF office at 512-578-3216.
How can I obtain an OSSF permit?
A licensed site evaluator must evaluate the property to determine the type and size of on-site sewage facility that is needed. You can find information on locating a site evaluator and the process of obtaining a permit by visiting lcra.org/ossf.
What rules apply to site development, dredge and fill, and other land-disturbing activities near the Highland Lakes?
May I spray pesticides on my property near a lake or river?
An over-the-counter insecticide may be fine to use around the lake, but it should be labeled as safe for use near water and should be used exactly as instructed on the product label. It is important you do not apply any insecticide directly to the water surface. As a general rule, pesticides that advertise season-long control can persist in the soil for up to three months. The longer the active ingredient lasts, the greater the chance it enters the water when it rains.
Are the Highland Lakes safe for swimming?
Swimming in any lake carries risks. In the Highland Lakes, swimmers swim at their own risk. There are no lifeguards on duty, and the depth of the lake can change quickly. In addition, swimmers should avoid being near the dams, and should stay alert to sudden and unannounced water releases from any of the dams along the Highland Lakes. Visit the LCRA Safe Swimming page for additional tips.
Is it safe to swim in the Highland Lakes or its creeks and tributaries after a heavy rain?
Bacteria levels are elevated after heavy rains, and swimmers should use their best judgment in deciding whether to enter the lakes under those conditions. If the water is turbid (brown) and floating debris is present, levels of bacteria are most likely elevated. . It generally takes about a week after a rain for bacteria to return to more normal levels.
The lakes are not chlorinated swimming pools, and there is always at least some risk swimmers will come into contact with bacteria.
For information about water quality in the Highland Lakes and the basin’s streams, see LCRA’s Water Quality Data map.
Is Naegleria fowleri in any of the Highland Lakes?
Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that can be found in any natural body of water such as a lake, river or creek. It can be found in warm, stagnant areas. It is thought to be associated with sediment and other materials in the lake or river bottom, and gets mixed into the water when the lake or riverbed is disturbed by swimmers and other causes.
Very specific conditions must be in place for someone to become infected with Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). Cases of PAM are extremely rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has additional information, including ways to reduce the likelihood of contracting PAM.
Where are LCRA parks? What amenities do they offer?
LCRA owns nearly 11,000 acres of parkland along the Colorado River from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. The parks offer a wide variety of fun activities, ranging from kayaking and hiking to bird watching and exploring canyons and caves. Some parks offer cabins, overnight tent camping accommodations, RV campsites, pavilions or dining halls.
Detailed information about LCRA parks is available at lcra.org/parks or the LCRA Parks Information Line at 512-473-3366.
How do I make reservations at an LCRA park?
You can view campsites and make reservations online at lcraparks.reserveamerica.com or by calling 855-392-7638. The toll-free number is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and is closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Online reservations may be made for a nonrefundable $6 fee per campsite. There is a $7.50 nonrefundable service charge per campsite for online and/or call center cancellations, transfers and changes.
Do you offer an annual park pass?
Yes. An LCRA Parks Pass is available for $150 for adults, $100 for seniors or people who are disabled, or $240 for equestrian and horse. We are not able to honor passes from other park systems. For more information or to purchase a pass, visit our reservation site or call 855-392-7638.
Are campfires or grills with charcoal allowed at LCRA parks?
Ground fires and charcoal grilling are allowed at many LCRA parks. Check individual park webpages for rules at specific parks.
Campfires are allowed only in established fire rings or in contained camp stoves, unless a county burn ban is in effect.
Visitors may bring their own grills. Raised fire pits are allowed as long as no wood is being used.
How do I schedule a group or special event? Will I need a permit?
LCRA parks offer rental halls and pavilions for group activities at Black Rock Park, Lake Bastrop North Shore Park, Lake Bastrop South Shore Park, Matagorda Bay Nature Park and McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Please note that individuals attending events must pay park entrance fees.
Any organized group activity involving 20 or more individuals on LCRA land requires a land-use permit. Learn more.
What rules are in place at LCRA parks or on LCRA water?
Employment and doing business with LCRA
How can I find out about and apply for jobs at LCRA?
LCRA posts job openings at lcra.org/jobs. Applications should be submitted through that portal.
What type of benefits does LCRA offer?
LCRA offers a competitive benefits program that includes comprehensive health, dental, vision and legal insurance plans. We also provide life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, flexible health care and dependent care spending accounts, short-term and long-term disability protection, and an employer-matched 401(k) plan. In addition, we have an educational assistance and tuition reimbursement program and provide paid leave (vacation, sick, holiday, etc.).
How long does the application process take?
The process will vary by position, but can take several weeks.
How can I check on the status of my application?
View your application status anytime by logging in to our candidate portal.
My company is interested in working with LCRA. How can I learn about business opportunities?
How do I make an open records request to LCRA?
How can I verify whether someone is a current or former employee of LCRA?
Does LCRA offer grants to community development programs?
LCRA and our wholesale electric customers provide grants of up to $50,000 for community projects through our Community Development Partnership Program. The program helps local governments and nonprofit organizations within LCRA’s service area fund capital improvement projects to benefit the public. LCRA awards the grants twice a year, in the spring and fall. Here are FAQs about the grant program.
Does LCRA allow school field trips to the Redbud Center?
Do you offer tours of LCRA dams?
LCRA does not offer public tours of any of its dams.
Can I buy electricity from LCRA for my home or office?
Not directly. LCRA sells power to electric cooperatives and city-owned utilities.
Where does LCRA get the power it sells to co-ops and cities in Central Texas?
LCRA’s power generation portfolio includes a traditional natural gas-fired plant (Sim Gideon at Bastrop), combined-cycle gas-fired plants (Lost Pines 1 Power Project at Bastrop and Thomas C. Ferguson at Marble Falls), a gas-fired “peaking” facility (Winchester Power Park in Fayette County) and a coal-fired power plant (Fayette Power Project in Fayette County). LCRA also purchases power from Sandy Creek Energy Center near Waco. LCRA generates hydroelectric power at its Highland Lakes dams – Buchanan, Inks, Wirtz, Starcke, Mansfield and Tom Miller. More information about LCRA’s portfolio is available here.
How can I get information about a particular transmission project?
Water supply and lake levels
Who can help me with questions about my water bill?
Contact your local water utility for questions about your water bill. LCRA is a wholesale water provider and does not set the rates local providers charge their retail customers.
How can I find information about when LCRA is using hydroelectric generation at the dams?
Information about the previous day’s releases is available in the River Operations Report. The schedule for today’s hydroelectric generation is competitive electric market information and is not available to the public.
What are the current lake levels along the Highland Lakes?
Near real-time information on lake levels, streamflow and rain totals is available at LCRA’s Hydromet site.
Who uses water from the lakes?
Water from the Highland Lakes is released for cities, industries, power plants, agriculture and the environment.
Can anyone take water from the lakes?
No. It’s against the law to take water from the lakes without a water right permit or a contract with LCRA. The use of water from the lakes is highly regulated because the stored water in the lakes has been permitted to LCRA by the state.
Do I need a permit or contract to pump water from the Colorado River or Highland Lakes for my waterfront house or ranch?
If your property is on the Highland Lakes, you will need a Domestic Use water contract. If you live along the Colorado River, check with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to see if you need a permit to draw water from the river. You may still need a contract from LCRA if your water needs need to be met through releases from the Highland Lakes. An application for a firm water contract is available here.
Does LCRA serve my neighborhood?
LCRA is a wholesale water provider and does not provide retail service. Check with your local water provider to see if it purchases water from LCRA.
Questions, Comments and Complaints
How do I submit a question, comment or complaint?
You may submit a question, comment or complaint through Contact LCRA.
How does LCRA handle complaints?
You may file a complaint through Contact LCRA.
You will receive an email confirmation that your submission has been received. LCRA will review the information and determine if further action or investigation is required. You can expect to hear from us within seven business days. If we need more time to fully investigate and respond, we’ll let you know. We’ll also notify you of the disposition of the complaint if you have provided your contact information.
For more information on complaint procedures for LCRA’s water regulatory programs, please click here.