The Lower Colorado River Authority has formed a new advisory committee to help update and revise the Water Management Plan for lakes Travis and Buchanan.
The state-approved Water Management Plan governs LCRA's operation of the Highland Lakes to meet the needs of water users throughout the lower Colorado River basin. The 16-member advisory committee will spend the next year working with LCRA to provide input on how to improve water management strategies outlined in the plan to address needs in the basin, including those of cities, industry, agriculture and the environment.
"As the recent drought illustrated, the water in the Highland Lakes is a limited and precious resource," said LCRA General Manager Tom Mason. "The Water Management Plan helps ensure that this resource is used responsibly to serve the diverse interests in the basin. LCRA appreciates the commitment of the advisory committee members who have agreed to help with this difficult and important task."
The Water Management Plan works to balance competing interests and determines how water is allocated during drought and other water supply shortages. This is accomplished by prescribing actions that LCRA takes when the water stored in lakes Travis and Buchanan falls below certain levels. These are the two reservoirs that supply drinking water to 1.1 million people in Austin and Central Texas. The potential actions outlined in the Water Management Plan include reducing releases for environmental needs, cutting back water for agricultural customers, and working with wholesale municipal and industrial customers to implement mandatory water-use restrictions.
LCRA took such actions during the drought in 2009 when the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis dropped to 900,000 acre-feet. This prompted LCRA to request its wholesale water customers implement mandatory restrictions on water use. Major LCRA customers include the City of Austin and other Central Texas communities, municipal utility districts and water supply corporations, and industry and power plants. Mandatory restrictions include limiting car washing, pool filling and lawn watering on certain days and limiting the use of ornamental fountains.
LCRA also reduced water for the downstream bays and estuaries because of the drought — although the flow was kept above levels considered critical — and would have significantly reduced water to the farmers in 2010 had timely rains not come.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the current version of the Water Management Plan in January. LCRA is updating the plan because the process can take several years and it will give LCRA an opportunity to incorporate information from new studies on projected water demands, environmental flow needs and other important issues, said James Kowis, LCRA water supply strategist.
"This process will allow us to work with our stakeholders and customers to determine how to best manage the water of the Highland Lakes using the most up-to-date studies and lessons learned from the recent drought," Kowis said.
The advisory committee members each represent a stakeholder group that depends on the Highland Lakes: industry, environment, agriculture, municipalities and lake interests. The members are:
- Ralph Savino, Garwood Irrigation Division
- Robby Cook, Lakeside Irrigation Division
- Haskell Simon, Gulf Coast Irrigation Division
- Laurance Armour, Pierce Ranch
- Myron Hess, National Wildlife Federation
- Cindy Loeffler, Texas Parks and Wildlife
- Jennifer Walker, Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter
- Greg Meszaros, Austin Water Utility
- David Vaughn, City of Burnet
- Earl Foster, Kingsland Water Supply Corporation
- Rick Gangluff, STP Nuclear Operating Company
- Ken Gorzycki, Horseshoe Bay Resort
- Kerry Spradley, Lake Travis residential
- Janet Caylor, Lakeway and Riviera Marinas
- Jo Karr Tedder, Lake Buchanan residential
- Rusty Brandon, Hi-Line Lake Resort
For more information on the Water Management Plan, including updates on the advisory committee’s work, go to: www.lcra.org/watermanagementplan