Photo by Joe Olivieri
During its Oct. 30 meeting, the Travis County Commissioners Court urged water authorities to enact an emergency drought order for 2013.
In a unanimous decision, the court resolved to ask that the Lower Colorado River Authority ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to approve the drought order.
The current drought order was passed in September 2011 and is set to expire on whichever date is latest: Dec. 31, the end of the governor's disaster proclamation of exceptional drought conditions or the 120-day period the Texas Water Code allows.
Commissioner Karen Huber said that LCRA has two definitions for water customers: interruptible and firm. Interruptible customers are typically agricultural companies, such as rice farmers. Firm customers are typically industries, cities and municipal water authorities that sell water to residents.
An emergency drought order results in water being withheld for interruptible customers downstream.
LCRA's water management plan uses two trigger points, on Jan. 1 and June 1, to determine how much water from the lakes can be used for agriculture.
Currently, the lake level for Lake Travis is 634 feet mean sea level—42 percent full—and the lake level for Lake Buchanan is 993 feet mean sea level—46 percent full.
When the LCRA board approved an emergency drought plan in September 2011, the lake level of Lake Travis was at 631 feet msl, Huber noted.
Huber said LCRA is expected to consider the issue during its Nov. 14 meeting.
"This is a short-term hedge against serious water issues," she said. "From a water standpoint, we all have to work to find solutions."
She said that if water was released to interruptible customers in January and if the area did not receive additional rain, "We ourselves could have serious [water] curtailments."