Mandatory Water Use Curtailment

As the region’s prolonged drought continues, LCRA is preparing for the possibility it may need to impose mandatory curtailments on how much water its firm customers use to help preserve and protect the region’s water supply. LCRA projections show the earliest that mandatory curtailment could occur is fall 2024. Rainfall could postpone or negate the need for the curtailment. Read more about the current drought status for the lower Colorado River basin.

LCRA’s firm water customers are primarily cities, water districts and industries. As part of the planning process for a possible mandatory curtailment, firm water customers are required to develop a plan outlining what measures they would take to meet the required curtailment.

Implementing mandatory curtailment

LCRA would implement mandatory, or pro rata, curtailment if the LCRA Board of Directors makes a Drought Worse than Drought of Record (DWDR) declaration. This would mean the Board has determined the current drought is potentially worse than the Drought of Record, or the worst drought the region has seen, and warrants more significant response measures. For the lower Colorado River basin, the Drought of Record is the 2008-2015 drought.

The LCRA Board would make a DWDR declaration if:

  • The drought has lasted at least 24 consecutive months,
  • The drought intensity is greater than that of the Drought of Record, and
  • The amount of water in lakes Buchanan and Travis is less than 600,000 acre-feet, or 30% of capacity.

LCRA projections show that if severe drought conditions continue, the region could see DWDR conditions by the fall of 2024.

Mandatory curtailment FAQs

What Is “pro rata” curtailment?

“Pro rata curtailment” means all LCRA firm water customers must reduce their water use by the same percentage.

How does LCRA determine the water use curtailment percentage?

LCRA’s Drought Contingency Plan provides for an initial minimum curtailment of 20%. This percentage may be adjusted by the LCRA Board if the drought worsens.

How would mandatory curtailment work?

In April 2024, LCRA provided firm customers with information on the amount of water they would be allotted during a mandatory curtailment period based on their use during a recent, dry baseline year. The baseline year is June 2022 through May 2023. Customers can request a modification to their allotted amount if the reference year is not reflective of the customer’s current reasonable demand. Customers are required to develop a plan outlining what measures they will take to meet the required curtailment.

If mandatory curtailment were to be implemented, LCRA would compare each customer’s actual water use to their quarterly allotments. If the amount used exceeds the quarterly allotment, the customer could face a surcharge at the end of the calendar year. If the amount used is less than the customer’s quarterly allotment, the customer would receive a credit that could be used in a subsequent quarter of the same calendar year. At the end of the calendar year if use exceeds allocated amounts, any surcharges would be assessed and collected. LCRA also could stop delivery of water and take any necessary legal action to enforce pro rata curtailment and related rules and plans.

Could LCRA impose a surcharge to firm customers that use over the allotted amount?

LCRA rules provide for a tiered surcharge rate of up to 10 times the standard firm water rate of $155 per acre-foot, depending upon the percent of water used above the authorized allotted amount. The surcharge would be for firm customers such as cities and water districts, not residential customers. The LCRA Board also may establish different surcharge amounts at the time it declares a DWDR.

Will LCRA allow a customer to use more water than its allotted amount?

In general, no. However, LCRA will consider granting a customer a variance to its allotted curtailment amount if LCRA determines that failure to grant the variance would cause an emergency condition adversely affecting public health, welfare or safety. Details of how to apply for a variance are included in LCRA’s pro rata rules.

When would the mandatory curtailment end?

The LCRA Board would determine the conditions for lifting pro rata curtailment prior to initiating any curtailment. LCRA’s current Water Management Plan provides that a DWDR declaration will be cancelled when combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis is above 1.4 million acre-feet. As determined by the LCRA Board, curtailment may be lifted, or the amount of curtailment may be reduced prior to a cancellation of a DWDR declaration.