Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance

​​The Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance (HLWO) protects water quality throughout the Highland Lakes region. LCRA actively manages stormwater runoff around the Highland Lakes and the lower Colorado River to contain the pollution found in stormwater runoff, such as pesticides, soil, nutrients and other contaminants from everyday life.

To reduce the impact of stormwater pollution, the ordinance requires development within the area to protect water quality and reduce creek erosion by providing:

  • 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 encourages the use of native and adapted plants and discourages the use of chemicals on landscapes, which may have a negative impact on water quality.

New quarries and mines are covered under the HLWO and must implement measures similar to other development. Read the fact sheet.

Dredge and fill activities standards also are included in the ordinance. Typical activities that fall under this portion of the ordinance include:

  • Shoreline stabilization.
  • Retaining walls.
  • Removal of sediment from lakebeds.

Small projects may be authorized without a permit by submitting a written notification and erosion/sediment control plan. 

Ordinance Documents

Erosion and Sediment Control Guidance

Additional Resources

Frequently asked questions about the stormwater runoff pollution ordinance

Additional Links


Revised Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance

On Feb. 19, 2014, LCRA’s Board of Directors approved changes to the Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance and a new fee schedule:

Did you know?

Stormwater runoff is considered the largest source of pollution in the Highland Lakes. This is not surprising, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that pollution in stormwater runoff accounts for more than 98 percent of the fecal and total coliform bacteria, 90 percent of the sediment, 80 percent of the nitrogen, and more than half of the phosphorus entering the nations rivers and streams.

Impacts of stormwater runoff

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.

Benefits of managing pollution

Management of pollution caused in 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.

More information

For more information: Read frequently asked questions. You can also contact LCRA.