State approves withholding of reservoirs’ water for farmers for 2015

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Posted: 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, 2015

By Asher Price – American-Statesman Staff

Despite record rains over Central Texas this spring, the Lower Colorado River Authority can continue to withhold reservoir water from most downriver farmers, state environmental commissioners ruled Wednesday.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved an emergency order that allows the LCRA, which doles out water from lakes Travis and Buchanan, the chief reservoirs of Central Texas, to continue to withhold the dammed-up water.

Without the order, LCRA might have had to release as much as 175,000 acre-feet of stored water for agricultural operations. An acre-foot is roughly equal to the amount of water four average Austin households use each year.

Such emergency orders, supported by Austin and other lakeside communities, have now been in place several years running, as the region has suffered through drought.

“Although the watershed has received a lot of rain, the lakes are still recovering,” said TCEQ official Robin Smith, in recommending the commissioners withhold the water.

TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw agreed, noting that the lakes dwindle again if conditions turn: “Things will hopefully get better, but we’ve seen historically that they sometimes don’t.”

Downriver farming interests said they were neutral on the order.

Ronald Gertson, a member of the Colorado Water Issues Committee, a group representing rice farmers in three counties, said it was “highly unlikely” the farmers would have had to call on the stored water since the region has gotten so much rain recently.


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