Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Commissioners decided February 26 to modify the Emergency Order requested by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), cutting off interruptible water for agriculture but refusing to adopt a higher trigger level. Members of the Lower Colorado River Basin Coalition, including Ducks Unlimited, were pleased with the outcome.

“We knew with the currently low lake levels and historically low inflows that there would be no water for rice farmers again this spring, but we were very concerned about raising trigger levels from 850,000 acre-feet in the two previous emergency orders to 1.1 or 1.4 million acre-feet and putting undue burden on already stressed downstream users,” said Kirby Brown, DU conservation outreach specialist. “We’re very pleased that after thoughtful deliberation, the TCEQ Commissioners took into account concerns across the entire basin.”

Commissioners clarified that environmental flows would remain as per the 2010 water management plan and would not be included in the Emergency Order. The Coalition of lower basin businesses, political representatives, schools, environmental and agricultural stakeholders celebrated that clarification as the economy of the area depends heavily on a healthy environment.

“Although this order does cut off interruptible water for a third year, and that is bad news for the beleaguered Texas rice industry as well as the myriad waterfowl, other birds and wildlife that depend on those managed wetlands, we feel that the Commissioners heard, considered and acted favorably upon our requests in letters and comments to equitably share sacrifices across the basin in water-allocation decisions,” Brown said.

With the multi-year drought looking to linger on and population growth increasing, water allocation issues in Texas are far from over. Ducks Unlimited and other members of the Coalition are still concerned about finding solutions for water supplies for all users.

“We understand that a solution that appropriately provides balanced water management for the entire basin is a long term proposition, and we are pleased that the Commissioners have supported a balanced stakeholder process to revise the Water Management Plan to find it,” Brown said.

Logo courtesy Ducks Unlimited

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