What is in this article?:
Environmental and wildlife advocates charge LCRA of imposing unfair and devastating limitations on agriculture and the environment while allowing Central Texas water users an exemption from the same type of water limitations.
Program penalizes agriculture
Brown suggested that current water conservation programs penalize agriculture and the environment while allowing other water users to continue using water irresponsibly.
But LCRA General Manager Becky Motal said in addition to limiting water to farmers downriver, the action taken by the Board Tuesday, if approved by TCEQ, will require firm customers such as cities to limit homeowners and businesses to watering a maximum of once a week if combined storage is below 1.1 million acre-feet on March 1. Firm customers include cities in Central Texas that depend on water from the Highland Lakes.
Also at issue, many of those opposing the LCRA action say they are confused why LCRA staff has increased the combined acre-feet minimum for 2014 compared to the minimum set the previous two years. In similar actions in 2012 and 2013, LCRA asked the TCEQ for permission to limit release for agriculture irrigation if the combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis was below 775,000-acre feet and 920,000 acre-feet respectively. This year's minimum for release of irrigation water was set at 1.1 million in order to avoid dropping storage capacity to what LCRA called historic lows.
"Many are asking why the minimum storage level was increased nearly 10 percent over last year. It seems that the move is just another method of limiting irrigation water to agriculture and the environment," said Kirby Brown who attended Tuesday's meeting.
LCRA claims the storage trigger was set at 1.1 million acre-feet for the 2014 irrigation season because, even with water being cut off to most farmers for two consecutive years, the lakes have failed to recover significantly and remain near historic lows, a statement that some at the meeting said they believed was "an exaggerated truth."
"It was devastating when irrigation water was withheld in 2012, and this year's curtailment added insult to industry. But a third year of not having the water farmers need to keep their operations fluid may be the last straw for them," he added. "Up until now the agriculture community has taken the irrigation limitations in stride, though a lack of water has caused extreme problems for them and the communities they serve. But three years in a row may be asking too much and I imagine we will see a more united opposition to a move that, for all practical purposes, represents an assault on the industry and on rural communities that is both crippling and potentially destructive."