The Lower Colorado River Authority board voted 8-7 to cut off downstream rice farmers from Highland Lakes water unless lake levels significantly increase in the coming months.
After 6 1/2 hours of public comments and debate, the LCRA board ultimately decided Nov. 19 that combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan must reach 1.1 million acre-feet on March 1 in order to divert water downstream.
“This is a very distressing vote for me, but I've got to take the whole basin into account,” LCRA board Chairman Tim Timmerman said.
Highland Lakes' combined storage is approximately 727,000 acre-feet as of Nov. 19, significantly lower than the trigger point set by the LCRA board. According to LCRA staff estimates, there is a 15 percent chance the Highland Lakes will reach 1.1 million acre-feet combined storage by March 1.
Approximately 40 speakers addressed the board, with arguments mostly divided between lake-area interests in the Austin area and farming and rural interests from the Gulf Coast region of the Colorado River basin.
The 1.1 million acre-feet trigger point, originally proposed by the LCRA board, is based on data suggesting the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes since the start of 2013 is at 1 percent of its historic average. 2013, in particular, in on track to be among the lowest years for inflows in recorded history, according to LCRA staff data.
For more details on the full staff recommendation approved by the LCRA board, click here.