A long-running feud pitting Austin-area lakeside communities against farmers downriver could settle down with proposed changes to a water management plan for the Highland Lakes.
The pending update to what’s essentially a user’s manual for operating the river could mean that more water will stay in Central Texas because of a new reservoir designed to help quench thirsty rice farms.
The Arbuckle Reservoir, scheduled to come online in 2019, will store water for agricultural use in Wharton and Matagorda counties that before had come primarily from lakes Travis and Buchanan. The reservoir in Wharton County, about 150 miles downriver of Austin, will catch runoff and rain falling on the Colorado River watershed downstream of Austin and make it available to farmers.
Because of this, the Lower Colorado River Authority, a quasi-governmental body that manages the river, has inserted additional restrictions in its latest water management plan that could curb the flow of water from the Highland Lakes to its agricultural customers in dry times.
The plan tries to ensure that the LCRA can meet the demands of its high-paying municipal customers, including Austin, Pflugerville and Cedar Park, in a scenario that envisions the worst drought on record and without the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan falling below 600,000 acre-feet.
Read more from The Austin American-Statesman.