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Third LCRA reservoir to lessen agriculture demand on Highland Lakes

Arbuckle Reservoir in Wharton County Texas

The Arbuckle Reservoir in Wharton is expected to go online at the end of 2024. It will allow for the capture and storage of water downstream of the Highland Lakes. Wharton is about 200 miles southeast of Marble Falls. Lower Colorado River Authority photo

Testing is expected to begin by August on a third reservoir on the Highland Lakes chain that could go online by the end of 2024. Water in the Arbuckle Reservoir in Wharton County will be used to meet demands in the lower basin, mainly for agriculture customers. 

“We expect to see the amount of water required to be released from the Highland Lakes for downstream customers decline,” said LCRA Executive Vice President of Water John Hofmann. “It’s important to note the amount of water LCRA may divert from the river into the reservoir is limited, as some river flow must be allowed to continue downstream into Matagorda Bay.”

Arbuckle will take some of the pressure off of the Highland Lakes, especially reservoirs Buchanan and Travis. Because the two reservoirs now have a combined storage of below-45 percent capacity, all LCRA customers are on once-a-week watering restrictions. No water from the Highland Lakes has been available for most interruptible agricultural customers since July 2022 due to drought conditions.

The Arbuckle Reservoir is about 1,000 acres and 40 feet deep. When full, it will hold 40,000 acre-feet of water. Unlike lakes Buchanan and Travis, it will not be open to recreational use. 

It is the first project that will allow the LCRA to capture and store a significant amount of water downstream of the Highland Lakes.  

According to the LCRA, the new reservoir will: 

  • benefit the entire basin by reducing the amount of water released from the Highland Lakes to serve downstream demands, including industrial and agricultural customers;
  • add up to 90,000 acre-feet per year to the region’s water supply, with water in the reservoir being used and the reservoir refilled multiple times a year;
  • allow the LCRA to capture and store significant amounts of water downstream of the Highland Lakes for the first time;
  • improve the reliability of water for agriculture and reduce the chance that interruptible water will be cut back or off;
  • and increase the LCRA’s operational flexibility by making managed releases closer to Matagorda Bay possible. About 20 percent of the water released from the Highland Lakes is lost to evaporation and seepage in the on-average, seven-day transit to Matagorda County.

Fill testing is expected to begin this summer and should be completed by the end of August. 

“We expect the reservoir to be available to meet customer demands by late 2024,” Hofmann said.