Water Management and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)
Why is Pflugerville still in Water Restrictions? (current restrictions)
Central Texas is experiencing a severe and prolonged drought. As hot and dry weather continues, utilities in the Lower Colorado River Basin (LCRA) are implementing their drought plans and asking or requiring customers to follow water use restrictions set forth by the LCRA Managed Water Supply System of which Pflugerville is a member. Because Lake Pflugerville is fed by water from the Lower Colorado River Authority, the agreement requires us to abide by the conservation guidelines set forth by LCRA.
Did you know? The water treatment plant operators work diligently to maintain a constant level in Lake Pflugerville. When our area experiences an abundance of rain, by contract, we must release it back to LCRA. When this becomes necessary the operators open a valve on the backside of the dam and release water into a small stream below the dam. When the lake level starts to fall, plant operators pump water through a 30” pipeline, 17 miles from the Colorado River, into Lake Pflugerville. The City of Pflugerville has a contract with LCRA which includes a reservation of 12,000 acre-feet of water annually or 10.3 million gallons per day of water.
- Did you know? Not only does the lack of rain affect the levels of the lakes and streams in the Lower Colorado River Basin, but in 2011:
- Hot temperatures and windy days caused an estimated 192,404 acre-feet* of water to evaporate from the six Highland Lakes.
- Municipal Water Use (from the Highland Lake & Colorado River): 246,601 acre-feet
- Industrial Use: 60,272 acre-feet
- Agricultural Use: 529,580 acre-feet
- Recreational & Irrigation: 9.099 acre-feet
- Environment**: 33,433 acre-feet
- Emergency Hydroelectric: 345 acre-feet
*An acre-foot is a unit of volume commonly used in the United States in reference to large-scale water resources such as reservoirs and lakes, canals, and river flows. (1 acre-foot volume: 1 foot deep, 66 feet wide and 660 feet long)
**Water released solely for the purpose of satisfying environmental needs.
How are Regional Water Supply Systems Managed?
Managing regional water supply systems requires careful planning and conservation. LCRA has the rights to more than 2.1 million acre-feet of water per year (AFY). These rights -- based mostly on surface water permits issued by the State of Texas -- include the right to divert and use up to 1.5 million AFY from lakes Buchanan and Travis and 636,750 AFY from the Gulf Coast, Lakeside, Garwood and Pierce Ranch irrigation operations. The Water Management Plan describes how to allocate water during water supply shortages. It directs the curtailment of interruptible water supplies so that demands for firm water are fully met. LCRA takes action at key points as the lake levels drop.
How does this affect Pflugerville?
First, understand the difference between "Firm Water & Interruptible Water". Firm water is available even during a severe drought, ie., cities, industries, electric power plants rely on firm water supplies. Interruptible water, mostly used for agriculture, is subject to rationing or curtailment, first, before firm water supplies.
When a major drought occurs there may not be enough water for all purposes. During severe dry periods, the lower Colorado River may flow at greatly reduced rates and lakes Travis and Buchanan may drop significantly from their storage capacities. (Check the Daily River Report or the Water Watch graphic to find out how much water is in storage currently.)
One of the first steps is to ask all customers -- those with Firm and Interruptible water supply contracts -- to voluntarily reduce water use through sound conservation measures. If the shortage intensifies, LCRA may call for mandatory conservation measures. Extremely low levels would trigger the cutoff of all stored water releases for agricultural irrigation. Although that has not been necessary in the past, the likelihood increases as demand increases to use water for other purposes.
This is where the City of Pflugerville currently finds itself. We are abiding by the LCRA call for mandatory conservation restrictions. Since we do operate under a contract with LCRA, we must continue to abide by the level of restrictions set forth by LCRA.
The City of Pflugerville strives to be a good water conservation partner. We will continue to operate under the restrictions set forth by LCRA. At the time, there has been a significant recovery in the Highland Lakes Reservoir and the Lower Colorado River Basin supply, LCRA will change the mandatory water restriction mandate and the City will comply.
For further information regarding the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), please visit their website.
(Information provided the LCRA website)