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LCRA Board OKs revised water plan
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 by Charles Boisseau
The board of directors of the Lower Colorado River Authority this morning approved a less stringent plan than the one they had been considering to deal with a shortage of water in the Highland Lakes. The plan includes for the first time cutting off water for rice and other agricultural users in 2010.
However, the river authority stopped short of an across-the-board suspension of new contracts for long-term “firm” water contracts – ones required by municipalities and new residential developments for drinking water — instead deciding that the board would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to approve any of these new contracts.
This change was an overnight twist in the proposal voted on by the board members, who on Tuesday met as the authority’s water committee and discussed the staff proposal to suspend issuing of any firm water contracts until the levels of the Highland Lakes return to more normal levels – 1.4 million acre-feet; currently the lakes are just above 1 million acre-feet. The lakes are lower than normal, but about 20 percent higher than just two months ago, before rains partially replenished the reservoirs.
Instead, board members may approve new water contracts, if they decide there is enough stored water available in the Highland Lakes. Under current LCRA rules, staff members can approve water contracts for 500 acre-feet of water a year; now all those contracts need board approval.
The board’s actions also would allow municipalities, such as the City of Austin, to lift mandatory water conservation measures that LCRA asked water customers to implement during the dog days of summer, when the region suffered soaring temperatures and dry weather.
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