But Brown said cutting off inflows to the bay and taxing rice farmers and rural economies should not be one of those ways.

"The cutoff of water to rice farmers is crushing the rural economy of three coastal counties on the lower Colorado River and creating a food-supply deficit for more than 600,000 ducks on the Texas Mid-Coast. Environmental flows currently being considered for cutoff are necessary for the habitat that supports 60 to 80 percent of the continental redhead duck population and critical fisheries," he warned.

Concerning birding and wildlife, Brown said Texas waterfowl hunting alone provides more than $204 million in annual economic input, and annual revenues from wildlife tourism, including hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in Texas top $5 billion. He says cutting off water supplies will hurt the Texas economy and it still continues to fall short of addressing current and critical water needs for the future.

“Ducks Unlimited understands that there is simply not enough water to meet all needs at present, and natural resources and downstream economies should and have shared in restrictions and conservation measures,” he added. “Common-sense water-allocation policy is required in these times. The luxuries of lush, green lawns and squeaky-clean cars each week are relics of a bygone era of conspicuous consumption possible in times of greater rainfall. Now our ecosystems and the economies they support must come first.”

By their own admission, when LCRA released 8,684 acre-feet from lakes Travis and Buchanan in September to meet some of the requirements from earlier in the year, and salinity levels in the Bay’s delta dropped from 33 parts per thousand (ppt) to less than 28 ppt.

Scientific studies have determined that levels greater than 30 ppt may not be suitable for oysters, juvenile fish and other species in the bay.

But Brown warns that cutting off inflows, as requested by LCRA, will quickly push salinity rates much higher than allowable to maintain a healthy bay system and will penalize the wildlife and industries that depend on a healthy ecosystem.

LCRA says if enough rains and subsequent flow comes into the Highland Lakes in the near future, they could be required to release up to an additional 5,834 acre-feet for the bay by the end of the year unless the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) grants their request to waive the requirement.

LCRA reports they have been working with its industrial and municipal customers on water conservation measures. A published LCRA advisory claims the water authority is urging all users in the region to use water wisely and conserve wherever possible.

"Everyone should strictly follow the watering schedules set by local water providers. These generally limit the time of day and days of the week that you can water your lawn and landscaping with a sprinkler system," the advisory suggests.


More from Southwest Farm Press:

Texas rice farmers could get relief from new reservoir project

Wildlife group cries ‘foul’ over LCRA water issue

From rice to riches