As directed by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Judge William G. Newchurch staged a public hearing Monday, Feb. 17, to gather comments and unruffle feathers of Colorado River stakeholders.

Judge Newchurch sought to bring a bit or order  to the issue after  an overcrowded TCEQ meeting last week erupted into heated exchanges between supporters and opponents of a proposal that would withhold water from most downstream farmers for the third year in a row.

The Lower Colorado River Authority(LCRA) requested TCEQ approve a drought emergency order to withhold the water from farmers this year if the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan, the region’s water reservoirs, is less than 1.1 million acre-feet at or about midnight on March 1.

Southwest states gear up for water battles.

Representatives of lower basin water stakeholders, including rice farmers, conservationists and official representing communities along the river from Bastrop to as far south as Bay City, testified they understood the need to conserve water during periods of drought, but complained at the meeting last week that they were being unfairly burdened to give up water use from the river while stakeholders in Central Texas were allowed to continue using water in excessive amounts, specifically to water lawns and wash cars.

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"Please don't shut off the Colorado river at Longhorn dam," Kirby Brown asked TCEQ Commissioners. "We respectfully ask the commission to reject the elevated triggers as requested and instead utilize the 2012 emergency order and response to the decision."

Brown, a wildlife biologist for Ducks Unlimited, said he was wearing two hats, representing stakeholders interested in conservation and the preservation of wetlands for waterfowl and also representing a coalition of communities and farmers in the lower basin that have joined together to petition the state to spread the burden of conservation on parties in both the lower and upper basin.