Texas rice farmers may see another year without water releases from the Highland Lakes.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for emergency drought powers to raise the water release threshold from the Highland Lakes to Texas rice farmers.
The Highland Lakes provide water to a number of entities including the city of Austin.
In November, the board voted to restrict the water that is released from Lakes Travis and Buchanan if the combined storage of the lakes fell below 775,000 acre-feet. Tuesday, the board voted to ask to raise the threshold to 850,000 acre-feet.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, the lakes are currently at 826,000 acre-feet, which is 41 percent of their capacity. LCRA General Manager Becky Motal told the newspaper that the area will need to see a decent amount of rain in order for any water to be released downstream to rice farmers this year.
Following the announcement, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples released a statement regarding the board’s decision to ask for a higher water release threshold for rice farmers.
“We cannot ration and restrict our way to a bigger and better Texas. Solutions need to be focused on water for all needs and not restricting something as vital as food,” Staples said. “A crisis exists in Texas as our water capacity has failed to keep up with our growth. This situation has been compounded by the worst single-year drought on record. We must find a balanced solution that allows farmers to continue producing food to feed us while also providing communities with the water to sustain our families. We need to embrace conservation and develop new water supplies necessary to meet our growing population and increasing water demand.”