Last week, LCRA requested that TCEQ grant an emergency drought order allowing LCRA to withhold water from rice farmers, should the Highland Lakes have a combined storage of under 850,000 acre feet on March 1, 2013; the request also did not allow for a second release, should the water be below that mark.
The request came after an original emergency drought order was requested in November 2012, which would have allowed for the release of water if levels were at least 775,000 acre-feet on that date.
Llano County Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke has been watching closely the events leading up to the second request, and has been an active participant in the county’s interest in the Highland Lakes. Raschke has attended several meetings of the LCRA, Central Texas Water Commission, among others, and is adamant that everyone must remain diligent in the fight to maintain and conserve our water sources, as well as being aware of the decisions being made on behalf of water users by the LCRA and TCEQ.
At the LCRA Board meeting on January 8, which Raschke attended, Ryan Rowney told the LCRA Board that the combined storage of the Highland Lakes as of Monday, January 7, was 825,536 acre-feet. Rowney told the board that LCRA had moved 2,000 acre-feet from the reservoirs to the constant level lakes in response to the predicted heavy rainfall last week. That water can only be recovered through rainfall.
Last year, the Highland Lakes saw the lowest levels of inflows since 1951 – and LCRA General Manager Becky Motal told the board that there had been no inflows in the last several months.
If TCEQ does not grant the emergency drought order, and LCRA is forced to release water downstream, and based on current weather predictions, the Highland Lakes could dip below 600,000 acre-feet as early as July of this year. However, even if the emergency drought order is approved, there is no guarantee that the level of the Highland Lakes won’t dip down under that, no matter what actions are taken.
While groups up and down the river are battling for their own interests – the rice farmers are worried about their crops, Ducks Unlimited Kirby Brown spoke of the threat to the wetlands, business owners and residents in the Highland Lakes region rely on the water for their lives and livelihoods, and LCRA depends on the water to meet contractual obligations to firm customers, as well as produce electricity – the issue remains that a solution must be found. The general consensus at the meeting was that money needs to be spent to look for downstream resources and to build reservoirs.
Commissioner Raschke said, “Water is a precious resource that we simply cannot live without. We must conserve water, we must be diligent in the fight and we must not point fingers.”
The LCRA Board will meet this week, and promises to address the concerns raised at the special called meeting.