**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
Yesterday the Lower Colorado River Authority (“LCRA”) Board voted 8-7 to request permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to withhold water from downstream farmers if certain conditions are not met.
Specifically, the LCRA is seeking permission from the TCEQ to require Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis, which are the primary sources of water for several Central Texas cities including Austin, to be at 55% capacity by March 1, 2014, before any water will be released to downstream farmers, many of whom raise rice. In order to meet this requirement, the lakes would be required to contain 1.1 million acre feet of water.
Currently, the lakes are only at 36% capacity (about 728,000 acre-feet). LCRA staff estimates show that the odds of the lakes reaching the required 1.1 million acre feet requirement by the March 1 deadline are only 15%.
For the past two years, the requirement for water to be released was that the lakes be 42% capacity, which was not met either year. According to citizens of towns located downstream whose citizens rely on income from rice farming, a third year of water being withheld will be devastating to the farmers and to the town economy as well. According to reports, more than 50,000 acres of rice were taken out of production this year alone.
Additionally, the LCRA Board also proposed mandatory restrictions on lawn watering that will limit outdoor watering to no more than one day per week for customers.
It will now be up to the TCEQ to determine whether to approve the proposed action.