Water Use Summary
LCRA Water Use Summary 2019
In 2019, the Highland Lakes watershed cycled from a wet first half of the year to much drier conditions in late summer through the end of the year.
Rainfall was above average for the first half of the year, and the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes ranked as the 25th highest inflows on record for January-July. The region experienced flooding in May, when LCRA had flood operations underway at every Highland Lakes dam to pass floodwater downstream.
July marked the start of a much drier weather pattern, and the basin began to dry out. Inflows to the Highland Lakes for August through December ranked 10th lowest on record for that five-month period.
Due largely to the wetter first half of the year, municipal water use from the Highland Lakes decreased by 16% from 2018 to 2019, and the amount of water released from the Highland Lakes for downstream agriculture decreased by 80%.
2019 Use (in acre-feet)
|LCRA South Texas Project||24,028|
|LCRA Gulf Coast||70,456|
|LCRA Pierce Ranch||11,749|
|LCRA Lakes Buchanan and Travis||217,897|
|SUBTOTAL – LCRA||452,132|
|City of Austin Water Rights||127,800|
|Bastrop Energy Partners, LP||180|
Water use by source – LCRA uses two basic sources of water to meet customer and environmental needs: water stored in lakes Buchanan and Travis and water naturally flowing in the Colorado River. When the natural flow into the Highland Lakes is greater than the customer and environmental needs, LCRA stores the excess in lakes Buchanan and Travis for later use.
Highland Lakes water use – Contracts for water stored in lakes Buchanan and Travis can be for firm or interruptible supply. LCRA also supplies water from the Highland Lakes to help maintain environmental flows, as required by the state-approved Water Management Plan. In 2019, the Highland Lakes supplied 217,897 acre-feet of water for all uses.
Firm water contracts – These contracts supply cities, businesses and industries that need a reliable long-term water supply. Firm supply is expected to be available through a repeat of the driest conditions the region has experienced. Firm customers accounted for 128,624 acre-feet, including 496 acre-feet to meet emergency needs for electricity, or about 59% of all water used from the Highland Lakes, in 2019.
Interruptible water contracts – These contracts supply agricultural customers. Interruptible water is subject to cutbacks during drought conditions. Interruptible customers used 27,319 acre-feet, or about 13% of all water used from the Highland Lakes, in 2019.
Environmental – From time to time, LCRA releases water from the Highland Lakes to meet environmental flow requirements for the Colorado River downstream of Austin and for Matagorda Bay. In 2019, LCRA released 61,954 acre-feet, or about 28% of water released from the Highland Lakes, for environmental flows.
Colorado River water use – In addition to the rights to water from the Highland Lakes, LCRA owns and manages other rights to the natural flow of the Colorado River. In 2019, a total of 234,235 acre-feet of water was supplied from the Colorado River for agricultural, municipal, industrial, recreation and firm irrigation uses under these water rights.
How does 2019 compare?
|Type of water use*||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||98,920||97,134||115,416||133,517||112,701|
|Water from the Colorado River||99,818||113,242||105,621||92,344||121,947|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||8,956||13,404||23,000||24,433||9,157|
|Water from the Colorado River||83,667||25,614||68,188||56,147||47,873|
|Recreational and Irrigation (firm)||5,620||5,123||7,362||6,760||7,013|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||5,346||4,870||7,225||6,667||6,766|
|Water from the Colorado River||274||253||137||93||247|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||0||7,656||59,266||136,490||27,319|
|Water from the Colorado River||74,723||246,429||175,989||153,175||192,148|
(from the Highland Lakes)
|TOTAL WATER USE||371,704||563,243||622,604||658,789||580,112|
*Water use is in acre-feet.
†Releases from the Highland Lakes for downstream agriculture in the Gulf Coast, Lakeside and Pierce Ranch irrigation operations were suspended from 2012 through 2015 because of the severe drought.
‡Dedicated environmental releases are the water released solely for the purpose of satisfying environmental needs. In addition, releases for downstream customers and runoff flowing into the river and bays help satisfy environmental needs.