For the first time since 2011, the LCRA is in a position to release water downstream for agriculture, like the rice farmers.
Council Member Don Zimmerman is saying that's water we could be using but the city won't even let us water our lawns more than once a week.
"Growver" is the creation of Austin inventor Jon Guy. It's basically a robot that waters your yard all by itself. And it's so smart it knows where your lawn needs it the most -- therefore saving you water.
"The sensors [are] to sense the moisture on the grass so that's how Growver determines where to water," Guy said.
An earlier model of Growver required it to work slowly over the course of a week -- something that wouldn't have worked with the city's proposed permanent once-a-week watering schedule or "Stage 2 water restrictions." The new Growver works a lot faster.
"It's hose-attached, it doesn't need to refill. So it can get an entire lawn watered within the restricted hours and the restricted day," Guy said.
But that doesn't mean Guy supports keeping Stage 2 even when we're not in a drought.
"For a number of reasons: One...it just doesn't give the customers the flexibility to choose between the days they water. It may be that you want to be around to keep an eye on things. It may be that you're watering day is coming but if you know that it's going to rain maybe you'll take that chance and you'll water a day or two later," Guy said.
And Guy is not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by Austin Water, 56% of the respondents said they don't support going to a permanent one-day-a-week watering schedule to conserve the water supply. Just 40% said they do.
Council Member Don Zimmerman has been fighting to get the city to remove the restrictions.
"When the lake fills up, the drought contingency plan says we come out of those restrictions and we're able to use the water we paid for," Zimmerman said.
Starting this month the LCRA has designated up to 202,000 acre feet of water that can be sent downstream gradually for agriculture if needed.
"You know what's going to happen is the LCRA, who has more authority over the river and what it does, they have separate contracts with other users like the down-field rice farmers. So if we don't use the water that we pre-paid, it frees up LCRA to downstream users that pay a fraction of the cost. And it appears that's what's going to happen," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman says the LCRA is just doing their job. It's the city's fault.
"LCRA gets to sell it again to downstream users. This is not fair to water-users that pre-paid for that wholesale water out of the river. Now the city says you're not allowed to use it," Zimmerman said.
We did reach out to Austin Water. They said the recent surveys will be a part of their final recommendation to city council on Stage 2 which they say will be coming in a month or so.