Lower Colorado River Authority Warns Drought Could Trigger Stricter Conservation Measures

Citing record-low flows into the region's water supply reservoirs and its first-ever curtailment of water sent to rice farmers, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) General Manager Joe Beal warned that the two-year drought still gripping Central Texas could trigger stricter conservation measures.

"LCRA is taking the drought conditions very seriously," LCRA General Manager Joe Beal said on Feb. 9. "We are following our state-approved water management plan to ensure that we can continue to provide water to our customers. We have asked our customers to conserve water, and for the first time ever, we have limited the amount of water we will send downstream for farmers."

Beal stood at a press conference among representatives from various lake and river interest groups who came from as far up the river basin as Lake Buchanan to as far downstream from Austin as the coastal rice-growing region in Matagorda County. The representatives briefly discussed how the drought has affected them and could continue to affect them personally.

Last year was a record low for the amount of water flowing into these lakes -- the lowest since 1942 when the two water supply reservoirs, lakes Buchanan and Travis, began operating in tandem. So while the Austin area received heavy rains early in 2007, many Central Texans may not realize that the rain did not fall in the areas it was needed to recharge the region's water supply. Lakes Buchanan and Travis -- the only two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes chain -- are 54 percent full. A repeat of last year's weather will drop the lake levels even more, and even if the Central Texas area receives its average amount of rainfall, the lake levels could still be lower by the end of this summer.

"If the drought persists or gets worse, then we will ask our customers to impose water-use restrictions, and we may even have to cut off our agricultural customers," Beal said. Those measures and others are part of LCRA's state-approved water management plan. "Consistent with our mission as a steward of the Colorado River, LCRA is prepared to implement these measures to make it through this drought," he said.

Water conservation tips are available online as part of LCRA's comprehensive water awareness campaign called Water IQ. Residents can learn how they can save water at http://www.wateriq.org.

LCRA (http://www.lcra.org) plays a variety of roles in Central Texas: delivering electricity, managing the water supply and environment of the lower Colorado River basin, developing water and wastewater utilities, providing public recreation areas, and supporting community and economic development.

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