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The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition acknowledged the need for the unprecedented request by LCRA to cut off most irrigation water for a 4th straight year, though the Coalition also called for increased water conservation and drought contingency measures to help stretch water supplies.
The Lower Colorado River Authority request to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also seeks to reduce downstream releases for the blue sucker, a state-listed threatened species of fish.
“While this is certainly expected with the ongoing serious drought and low lake levels, the request continues to pose grave risks for the sustainability of businesses, communities, agriculture, waterfowl, fish and the environment throughout the downstream Colorado River basin,” said Kirby Brown, co-chair of the Coalition and biologist with Ducks Unlimited.
“Downstream interests have borne the brunt of the drought for the past four years and we believe the sacrifices should be more evenly shared up and down the basin,” said Brown, who is a biologist with Ducks Unlimited.
For example, mandatory water restrictions should be imposed on all LCRA customers if some are going to have their water cut off, Brown said. And water conservation needs to be more aggressive and systematic, he added.
“What’s at stake is a way of life in communities below Longhorn Dam in Austin,” said County Judge Paul Pape of Bastrop County. “Many families have been ranching, farming and fishing for generations. Reliable water is essential to sustain the lower river and all it supports.”
Myron Hess, who manages Texas water programs for the National Wildlife Federation, noted that “the reductions in spawning season releases for the blue sucker likely are justified because of the seriousness of the ongoing drought but it is time to put into place a more comprehensive flow regime for the Colorado River that reflects the latest science. The reduced flows reflect only one part of the recommendations from a 2008 LCRA study.”
On Wednesday the LCRA Board of Directors approved a request to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for an Emergency Order to reduce the release of water for the environment and halt the release of most irrigation water in March.
The Coalition is advocating for other measures to cope with drought, besides stopping water from flowing downstream, including: