The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved a new Lower Colorado River Authority water management plan that will allow the LCRA to limit the water it releases from the Highland Lakes at all times, regardless of the lake levels of Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan.
The previous plan only allowed LCRA to restrict releases when the storage of the two lakes fell below 70 percent full, or 1.4 million acre feet, and allowed a complete cut-off only if storage dropped below 30 percent full, or 600,000 acre feet. While the lakes have never fallen below 30 percent storage, they have been strained in recent years, with many homes losing their waterfront access to Lake Travis or seeing it minimized.
During the recent drought, the LCRA had lessened the water released downstream to farmers but relied on emergency orders to do so. The plan, which will go into effect on January 1, 2016, eliminates the need to be in an emergency and eliminates “open supply,” providing unlimited water once lake levels rise to a certain point, according to a story by KXAN.
The story also says the new plan will include twice yearly water measurements: March 1 and July 1, the beginning of the two crop seasons. The water levels had been measured only once a year, on January 1, which was before the water was needed by farmers and also didn’t take into account Spring rains.
LCRA representatives have stated the new plan will allow central Texas to be more protective of its water supply.