But even if the rains stop for the winter, that doesn’t mean water won’t be released to rice growers in 2013.

“Currently, combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan is more than 880,000 acre-feet. Even under current conditions, the lakes won’t drop too much below that before the TCEQ’s existing emergency order expires at the end of December. Absent any further or additional emergency relief, releases from the Highland Lakes for downstream agriculture next year will depend on the current 2010 TCEQ-approved Water Management Plan or on a proposed amended Water Management Plan that now is pending at TCEQ,” she said, and that could mean that as much as 125,000 acre-feet of stored water could be released next year. A second release would then be possible depending on lake levels and rainfall amounts by March 1, 2013.

But the amount of water released hinges on the approval of a pending TCEQ amended water plan that authorizes and sets the standard for water releases for agriculture based upon the amount of water in the reservoirs on Jan. 1 or March 1 each year, whichever is greater.

If the amended plan is not approved and there is no emergency order before contracts are issued for irrigation, water would be made available under the 2010 Water Management Plan. Under that plan, if the combined storage is at today’s level, LCRA would provide up to 183,000 acre-feet of stored water for irrigation.

“Ultimately, TCEQ will decide which Water Management Plan LCRA falls under: the 2010 plan, the amended plan, or an emergency order if one is sought. I want to reiterate that LCRA is closely monitoring conditions daily. LCRA has not decided to seek emergency relief from TCEQ, nor have we decided not to seek it. No decision has been made,” Motal said.