EAGLE LAKE, Texas (March 4, 2015) – The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition called for more aggressive water conservation and drought management as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved on March 4 a cutoff of water for agriculture and the environment for a fourth straight year.
The grass-roots group of lower Colorado River interests acknowledged that the halt to water releases for agriculture and the environment was inevitable, given the ongoing drought now is in its eighth year. Still, the Coalition urged more focus on measures that can be taken up and down the river basin to stretch the water.
“We believe water could be – and should be – used much more efficiently in the entire river basin,” said Kirby Brown, co-chair of the Coalition. “More intensive water conservation and enforceable drought management would spread the burden more equitably.”
On March 4, the TCEQ approved the emergency order request by LCRA to stop releases of interruptible water from the Highland Lakes to irrigation operations in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties. These farmers did not receive water from the lakes in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Some water will be provided to the Garwood Irrigation District.
“As much as 25 percent of river water has been replaced by groundwater,” said LCRBC member and chair of the Colorado Water Issues Committee Ronald Gertson. “This likely cannot be sustained in the long term.”
The other emergency order also allows LCRA to reduce water releases in spring 2015, from 500 to 300 cubic feet per second, to support the blue sucker habitat, a threatened fish living in the downstream portion of the Colorado River in Austin.
The Lower Colorado Coalition also supported the off-channel reservoir being built by LCRA to benefit downstream businesses, industries, agriculture and the environment.
“We are looking for some assurance that the off-channel reservoir being built in Wharton County will increase water reliability for local farmers, commerce and waterfowl,” said Brown, a water conservation specialist with Ducks Unlimited.
Without the second emergency order, about 21,000 acre-feet of stored water in lakes Travis and Buchanan would be released to flow downstream by the end of May 2015. The order will prevent about 17,000 acre-feet from being released, as some water will be provided to the Garwood Irrigation District.
The emergency orders expire on June 18, 2015.
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About the Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition
The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition [http://www.waterdownstream.org/ seeks a fair and balanced approach to water management of the Colorado River for all parties under all conditions – drought and flood. Equitable river management requires that water keep flowing downstream of Longhorn Dam all the way to the Matagorda Bay.
The Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition is made up of a broad, diverse group from lower Travis County to Matagorda Bay representing counties, communities, businesses, private landowners and agriculture, conservation and environmental groups.
Key concerns of the Coalition:
· Balanced water allocation – water management decisions should be based on transparent, dependable and peer-reviewed science; not designed to pick winners and losers
· Water Supply – efforts should be made to increase water supply, such as the construction of the off-channel reservoir in Wharton County
· Storage – water storage in the Highland Lakes should take into consideration flood potential, with the effect on property and lives assessed
· LCRA Founding principles – the environment, water quality in the river, and agricultural irrigation should remain central to LCRA policies — as required by its enabling legislation
LCRB Coalition Co-Chair Kirby Brown
LCRB Coalition Co-Chair Robby Cook