“We appreciate all people who took time out of their lives to come and speak to the Board in person,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “It highlights the toll the drought and the availability of water has on all of us. It is clear the Board needed to take steps to protect our firm customers such as cities and industry, while still balancing the need of others who depend on the lakes.”

LCRA now will ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for permission to limit downstream farmers to 121,500 acre-feet of water from the Highland Lakes in 2013 if the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan is between 775,000 and 920,000 acre-feet on Jan. 1 or March 1.

If combined storage is above 920,000 acre-feet on Jan. 1 or March 1, LCRA would follow the 2010 Water Management Plan, which would allocate about 180,000 to 185,000 acre-feet of Highland Lakes water available for downstream farmers. Water for second crop, if any, would be available if combined storage is at or above 850,000 acre-feet on June 1 or Aug. 1. The amount available would depend on how much water from the Highland Lakes was supplied for the first rice crop of the year.

Last year, because of the extreme drought, LCRA asked the state for and was granted emergency relief that cut off Highland Lakes water to most downstream farmers in 2012. Last year was the most severe single-year drought on record.

While LCRA officials say there has been more rain this year than last, there has not been enough for the lakes to fully rebound. There was hope earlier this year that an El Niño weather pattern would develop and bring wetter than normal weather in the fall and winter, but those conditions failed to develop and forecasts were revised.