LCRA cuts off Highland Lakes water for agriculture due to drought conditions

LCRA says no Highland Lakes water will be available for agricultural customers due to drought conditions. 

This decision affects interruptible water customers in the Gulf Coast, Lakeside and Pierce Ranch agricultural operations in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties. 

The Water Management Plan requires LCRA to cut off water from the Highland Lakes to interruptible customers during drought conditions, so water supplies will continue to be available to cities, businesses and industries, says the agency. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, all the Hill Country watershed that feeds the Highland Lakes is considered to be in extreme drought.

Based on declining lake levels and the water cutoff, LCRA also has entered drought response Stage 1 under its Firm Customer Drought Contingency Plan and is requesting firm customers such as municipalities and industries to voluntarily reduce their water use by 5%. LCRA says that each firm customer has its own drought contingency plan.


Even with these drought response actions, levels in lakes Buchanan and Travis, and the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes are expected to continue to decline throughout the summer. 

LCRA determines the amount of water available for interruptible customers on July 1 for the second growing season, which typically is from August to mid-October, based on three factors: combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis, and the duration and intensity of the drought. 

LCRA says that on July 1, the combined storage of the two lakes was 1.278 million acre-feet. It has been more than 18 months since the lakes were last full, and the cumulative inflows are below the inflow intensity test in the Water Management Plan. Given those factors, the water supply condition has changed to Extraordinary Drought as defined in the plan.

While the plan limits the amount of interruptible water available from the Highland Lakes at all times, this marks the first time water available for interruptible customers has been cut off under the 2020 version of the plan, according to LCRA.

LCRA says it will continue to provide water from the first season allocation for interruptible customers finishing up their first crop of the year.