Water Use Summary
LCRA compiles water use information for the lower Colorado River basin in the annual Water Use Summary.
LCRA Water Use Summary 2022
Brief stretches of heavy rain in late August and November helped bring some drought improvement to parts of the area, but parched soils in the Hill Country soaked up most of the rainfall, resulting in limited runoff into the Highland Lakes. Monthly inflows were below historical averages each month throughout the year, and 2022 inflows into lakes Buchanan and Travis were the lowest on record.
In summer 2022, LCRA’s state-approved Water Management Plan required it to cut off Highland Lakes water to agricultural customers in the Gulf Coast, Lakeside and Pierce Ranch operations for the second growing season. The determination was based on the intensity and duration of the drought and the amount of water in lakes Buchanan and Travis on July 1.
Total water use from the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River increased from 2021 to 2022. Water use from the Highland Lakes increased by 103%, with increases for all types of use. Diversions of water originating from the lower Colorado River decreased by 45% from 2021 to 2022.
2022 Use (in acre-feet)
|LCRA and South Texas Project*||9,955|
|LCRA Gulf Coast*||22,853|
|LCRA Pierce Ranch*||1,138|
|LCRA Lakes Buchanan and Travis||429,314|
|SUBTOTAL – LCRA||553,771|
|City of Austin Water Rights*||70,799|
|Bastrop Energy Partners, LP*||180|
|SUBTOTAL – Other||70,979|
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 customer needs and environmental obligations, 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 2022, the Highland Lakes supplied 429,314 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 available through a repeat of the driest conditions the region has experienced. Firm customers used 228,591 acre-feet, or about 53% of all water used from the Highland Lakes, in 2022. This includes 108 acre-feet used in hydroelectric generation to meet emergency needs for electricity.
Interruptible water contracts – These contracts supply agricultural customers. Interruptible water is subject to cutbacks during drought conditions, and its availability was curtailed for the second season in 2022 because of the drought. Interruptible customers used 160,213 acre-feet, or about 37% of all water used from the Highland Lakes, in 2022.
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 2022, LCRA released 40,510 acre-feet, or about 10% of water released from the Highland Lakes, for environmental flows.
How does 2022 compare?
|Type of water use*||2018||2019||2020||2021||2022|
|Municipal (firm customers)||225,861||234,648||251,970||249,011||266,848|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||133,517||112,701||144,531||118,821||198,971|
|Water from the Colorado River†||92,344||121,947||107,439||130,190||67,877|
|Industrial (firm customers)||80,580||57,030||50,343||113,594||51,790|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||24,433||9,157||18,593||12,390||22,722|
|Water from the Colorado River†||56,147||47,873||31,750||101,204||29,068|
|Recreational and Irrigation (firm customers)||6,760||7,013||7,568||4,204||6,898|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||6,667||6,766||7,413||4,204||6,898|
|Water from the Colorado River||93||247||155||0||0|
|Agricultural (interruptible customers)||289,665||219,467||247,573||171,900||258,704|
|Water from the Highland Lakes||136,490||27,319||84,472||45,109||160,213|
|Water from the Colorado River||153,175||192,148||163,101||126,791||98,491|
(from the Highland Lakes)
|TOTAL WATER USE||658,789||580,112||673,040||570,026||624,750|
†Reported use includes water under water rights held by the City of Austin and Bastrop Energy Partners, LP and jointly by South Texas Project and LCRA.
‡Environmental releases are made to meet environmental requirements set out in the LCRA Water Management Plan. Releases for downstream customers and runoff flowing into the river and bay also help satisfy environmental needs.