Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance
Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance
Technical manual and construction standard details
LCRA helps protect water quality around the Highland Lakes through the Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance by regulating development to manage stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff from development can contain pollutants such as sediment, oil and grease, pesticides, herbicides, and nutrients.
Read FAQs about stormwater management.
Stormwater runoff is considered the largest source of pollution in the Highland Lakes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports pollution in stormwater runoff accounts for more than 98% of the fecal and total coliform bacteria, 90% of the sediment, 80% of the nitrogen, and more than half of the phosphorus entering the nation’s rivers and streams.
The impacts of stormwater runoff can be widespread and severe, including:
- Siltation of creeks and reservoirs.
- Reduced fish and wildlife habitat.
- Increased growth of aquatic weeds.
- Algal blooms and fish kills.
- Reduced recreational opportunities because of bacterial contamination and increased turbidity.
- Contamination of food and water sources.
What are the benefits of managing stormwater?
Managing pollution caused by stormwater runoff is far less expensive than correcting it after it has occurred. The benefits of managing stormwater runoff pollution include:
- Expanded recreational and tourism opportunities — and economic growth.
- Increased property values and tax base along the river, lakes and tributaries.
- Increased productivity of range and farmland, as well as aquatic ecosystems.
- Reduced water treatment costs.
- Preservation of diverse wildlife habitat.
- Prolonged viability of water storage reservoirs.
How does the ordinance reduce the impact of stormwater pollution?
The ordinance requires development to incorporate measures and best management practices to protect water quality and reduce creek erosion, including:
- Approved water quality management facilities (vegetated filter strips and/or water quality basins) to collect stormwater runoff.
- Buffer zones that remain free of development. Read the Property Owner’s Guide to Buffer Zones.
- Temporary erosion and sediment controls.
- Permanent systems to minimize sediment migration from the site.
LCRA also encourages using native and/or adapted plants and limiting the use of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on landscapes.
Dredge and fill activities on the Highland Lakes fall under the Highland Lakes Dredge and Fill Ordinance.
Anyone who performs work that falls under the definition of a development, quarry/mine activity or utility construction must notify LCRA before beginning the work. If the work exceeds thresholds established by the ordinance, a permit is required. The property owner, developer or their designated representative may apply for the permit.
Required notifications and permits
- No Permit Required notification: required for small development projects and quarry/mine activities located outside a creek buffer zone that may be authorized without a permit by submitting Notification of No Permit Required documents.
- Development permit: required for development of land if impervious cover will exceed 10,000 square feet and/or if land disturbance will exceed 1 acre.
- General utility permit: required for utility construction anywhere within the jurisdictional area, including all routine construction, maintenance and repair work.
- Quarry or mine permit: required for activities that create more than 10,000 square feet of impervious cover or disturb more than 5 acres of land, and for all quarry and mine activities within a buffer zone of a creek or river. Read the fact sheet.
LCRA Water Quality
P.O. Box 220
Austin, TX 78767-0220
LCRA has interlocal agreements with Austin, Bee Cave, City of Burnet, Cedar Park, Horseshoe Bay, Lago Vista, Lakeway, Marble Falls, Sunrise Beach Village, Travis County and Volente. The communities administer part or all of the ordinance. Please check with the local government to determine if a permit from LCRA is necessary.
RESOURCES FOR BUSINESSES AND RESIDENTS
These guidance materials and best management practices for new and existing developments can help homeowners and businesses protect water quality in the Highland Lakes area:
Property Owner’s Guide to Buffer Zones
Guía del propietario para las zonas de conservación (Spanish version)
Conservation Landscaping Credits
Preventing Stormwater Runoff Pollution
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Nonpoint-Source Pollution: Public Education
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Polluted Runoff webpage