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LCRA prepares for public input on future water needs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 by Austin Monitor




The Lower Colorado River Authority, which has managed and provided water to the Central Texas area for the past 70 years, is preparing to assess the needs of its customers for the next 100 years. New General Manager Tom Mason said water planning is rarely done on a short-term basis.


“Our board is looking at a 50 to 70 to 100-year planning horizon,” he said. “We are hoping to get people’s ideas – upstream and downstream –about the water supply. We are looking for a flexible plan that we can use as a road map for the next 100 years.”


The LCRA, formed in 1934, generates electricity and manages water supplies in the lower Colorado Basin.  With predictions that the population of Central Texas is going to double every 30 years, Mason says securing and delivering new supplies of water will be critical over the next century.


“The good news is that we have plenty of water for now, and for the next several decades, but it takes decades to plan for the kind of growth we are expecting here in Central Texas,” he said. “In our basin, we have to stay way ahead of the curve.”


The LCRA’s existing supplies in the water in the Highland Lakes, and run-of-river water rights located downstream, is equal to 657 billion gallons of water when the lakes are full. Current demand on the LCRA’s resources is about 149 billion gallons per year.


“Water is a finite resource,” Mason said. “While we have ample water to meet our current needs, the region is growing. We need to consider how we can use our resources wisely and work together to plan for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s water supply.


The population in the LCRA’s region – known as Region K in the state’s planning grid – is projected to grow from its current level of about 1.35 million people to about 2.7 million people by 2060.


As the population grows, the LCRA’s current supply may not be sufficient, Mason said. That will mean that the agency will be looking down the road at other sources of water.


“First and foremost, there will have to be conservation,” he said. “The truth is, we have about the same amount of water we had back during the time of the dinosaurs. It’s all about how you use it.”


He said there are other sources of water that the agency will be looking at, including groundwater, desalinization and conjunctive use. And all of the come at a cost, Mason said.


“There are the financial costs,” he said. “Each method of finding water comes with a prices tag. But there are other costs as well, including environmental costs. And we’ll be trying to prioritize those based on what our customers tell us.”


The LCRA is planning a series of three meetings beginning tonight, to gather public input regarding its Water Supply Resource Plan.


Meetings are scheduled at 6pm tonight at the Burnet Community Center, 401 East Jackson in Burnet; 6pm Thursday at the Pioneer Student Center at Wharton Junior College, 911 Boling Highway in Wharton, and at 6pm on Aug. 7 at the LCRA’s Dalchau Service Center, 3505 Montopolis Dr., in Austin.


For more information, call 800-776-5272, ext. 33980, or go to





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