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All but one of the four rice-growing districts in South Texas will be cut off from Highland Lakes water for both of the two growing seasons in 2023, the Lower Colorado River Authority announced on March 2.

The decision was triggered by the LCRA’s state-approved water management plan, which requires cutting off agricultural customers when reservoirs drop to a certain water level. The combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis on March 1 was 1.037 million acre-feet, or about 52 percent of capacity.

Last summer, the LCRA curtailed interruptible water to agriculture customers for the second growing season. Again, one rice district, Garwood Irrigation District, was exempted. Garwood was granted the exemption due to its contract when it sold its water rights to the LCRA in the late 1980s.

LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann touted the water management plan’s triggers, which are tied to calendar dates and lake levels. 

“The Water Management Plan takes into account drought situations like the one we’re in now,” Hofmann said in a media statement. “Extremely low inflows combined with evaporation and water use by LCRA customers have led to the decline in storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis. During hot, dry times like these, the plan requires the curtailment of water to interruptible customers so LCRA can continue meeting the needs of cities, businesses, and industries.”

The Central Texas Water Coalition disagrees and continues its fight to have the water management plan updated immediately rather than waiting until 2025, its next scheduled rewrite. 

“The biggest part of the problem is that (the water management plan) doesn’t stop releasing massive amounts of water soon enough,” said coalition President Jo Karr Tedder. “Whenever (the LCRA) deems to have a water management plan review, the triggers have to change. You cannot have 2.5 million people with this amount of growth and still continue to do what you’ve always done: sending all that water down basin.”

Currently, the LCRA is in Stage 1 of its drought contingency plan for firm water users, which includes municipalities, water districts, and industries. Firm water users have access to water even during droughts, unlike interruptible agriculture users. Stage 1 requests firm water customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 5 percent. 

If the combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis falls below 900,000 acre-feet, or about 45 percent of capacity, and interruptible supplies have been curtailed, LCRA will move to Stage 2 of the drought contingency plan, which asks for voluntary reductions of water use by 10-20 percent. That could happen this summer, according to the LCRA, which is asking for individuals to conserve. 

“Evaporation and outdoor watering are two of the biggest consumers of water during the hotter months,” Hofmann said. “We can’t control evaporation, but we can reduce the amount of water we use on our yards.”

More information about LCRA’s water management plan is available at LCRA’s lake-level projections are available at

1 thought on “No Highland Lakes water for rice farmers this year

  1. So lcra doesn’t consider farming a businesses, or industries? It will regulate Us Farmers but will do nothing to regulate car washes? You don’t need a clean car to survive but You definitely need food. Makes no sense the lack of common sense of the board controlling water.

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