LCRA gets OK to keep water from being released downstream

UPDATE: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved an emergency order Wednesday which will allow the Lower Colorado River to keep water from being released downstream to farmers.


LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) — Despite unprecedented rainfall totals in recent months, Central Texans are still concerned about the future of the region’s water supply.

A decision being made Wednesday by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality could affect that outlook. The TCEQ is considering a request by the Lower Colorado River Authority to extend an emergency order which would keep water from being released downstream to farmers.

Back in 2011, massive amounts of water were sent downstream for agricultural purposes. The city said it equaled about three years-worth of Austin’s water use.

Every year since, the LCRA has suspended the release of water downstream, cutting of irrigation waters to rice farmers and other customers. They said it was necessary because the reservoirs of Lake Travis and Buchanan were not full enough.

“You’ve got to have that water for ranches and production of food, but there’s a point where you have to have balance for what’s good for our water for drinking,” said Lakeway neighbor Stacy Bray. “It is a water source, and that is the concern that I had: Do we have enough water to take care of all the people moving to Central Texas?”

She has lived in the same home for over 16 years and has a front-row seat to the ever-changing water levels of Lake Travis.

“When the water was very low, we just didn’t have any water to see,” said Bray. “If we don’t take care of the watersheds we have, and water, or lack of water, we’re not going to have enough for the population moving to the area.”

Ronald Gertson, a rice farmer, says they are staying neutral on Wednesday’s decision because they have also received a lot of rain.

However, he says next year is a different story. Rice farmers are providing comment at the TCEQ meeting and believe the emergency relief was broad and far-reaching. They oppose it for the 2016 crop and expect delivery of irrigation water under the terms of either the 2010 plan or under a revised emergency order.

If TCEQ affirms the emergency order Wednesday morning, it will last until Oct. 15 of this year.

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