A decision expected in January from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will have an immediate and possibly devastating effect on Texas rice production, but the precedent set could put all of Texas agriculture in jeopardy.

TCEQ will rule whether to accept the Lower Colorado River Authority’s claim that releasing water from two reservoirs on the Colorado River (Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan) will result in “an imminent threat to public safety,” says Ron Gertson with the Colorado Water Issues Committee, an organization formed to protect senior water rights of farmers and industry downriver from Austin.

The imminent threat ruling means that senior water rights “can be put aside” to respond to a water shortage, Gertson explained. He said currently Texas does not have enough water to go around during drought periods. “We will see a time when Texas does not have enough water without drought,” he said.

The current claim of imminent threat, he said during a break-out session of the recent Texas Plant Protection Association annual conference in Bryan, is more political theater than actual threat to public safety.


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Three straight years of severe drought have taken a toll on water levels in both of the lakes near Austin. “But at current levels, the LCRA could release water without threat.”