Some answers are emerging from a multiyear study of a water-sharing plan for the Colorado River basin and the San Antonio area, but the verdict is still out on whether the proposal is viable, 125 residents and stakeholders were told at a project update meeting Oct. 30.
The Lower Colorado River Authority is studying the proposal to develop, conserve and share water with San Antonio Water System. LCRA hosted the meeting in El Campo to provide an update on scientific studies, now in their fifth year. The study period is scheduled to end no later than 2015.
The LCRA-SAWS Water Project proposes to reduce demand for water for irrigated agriculture and to produce more groundwater for use by farmers in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties. The project also proposes building a holding basin, or off-channel storage facility, to capture and store water from rainfall and from upstream sources.
With the water saved and produced, LCRA would be able to provide a more reliable water supply for irrigation, meet requirements for higher lake levels in lakes Travis and Buchanan, and make up to 150,000 acre-feet of water available for SAWS annually for about 80 years. If the project goes forward, it would take many years and an estimated $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion to complete.
The most appropriate location for the holding basin is Pierce Ranch in Wharton County, LCRA consultants said. The preferred site was identified after studying a variety of criteria, from environmental impact to cost. After completing the study, LCRA does not plan to use lands earlier identified as potential storage sites in Colorado and Matagorda counties, said Leah Manning, who is heading the studies for LCRA.
Bob Brandes, a consultant who is leading the water availability study, said it is too early to say how much water supplies will cost and how much can be provided. He said preliminary data show that water could be made available to SAWS while also meeting the project’s water supply goals for the lower Colorado River basin. However, there are unanswered questions still under study that could affect the project, such as the impact of groundwater development and the need for water for environmental purposes.
Many questions at the all-day meeting centered on how LCRA would compensate landowners for acreage and right-of-way easements for an underground water pipeline. Manning said a local appraiser would determine the value of the land, opening the way for negotiations between LCRA and the landowner.
Manning also discussed the process for deciding whether to proceed with the proposal. During the study period, LCRA and SAWS will determine if the project can obtain federal, state and local permits. After the study period, the LCRA Board will determine if the project protects and benefits the river basin as required by House Bill 1629, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2001. The SAWS Board will decide if the project’s cost and water supply are acceptable.
Contact:? Robert Cullick?1-800-776-5272 Ext. 4086?or Merrell Foote?1-800-776-5272 Ext. 3234 Lower Colorado River Authority; November 1
?TX: LCRA and City of Austin Set Agreement
LCRA and Austin have finalized a long-term water supply agreement to work together to plan a long-term water supply for the City of Austin – up to 250,000 acre-feet of additional water through 2100.
The Austin City Council approved the water supply agreement at its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 8. The LCRA Board of Directors approved the agreement on Aug. 22.
LCRA and the City of Austin have established a more formal, collaborative framework, which they call the Water Partnership, under which they will work together to evaluate opportunities to manage water supplies to meet the needs of this region. The Water Partnership will evaluate the appropriate timing and amount of water supply Austin will need based on demand projections. The Water Partnership will then evaluate various water supply alternatives to meet Austin’s future water demand and present recommendations to the Austin City Council and LCRA Board for approval.
In recognition of the importance of public input, LCRA and Austin have committed to a process designed to consider stakeholder and other customer concerns as part of the water supply planning process. A stakeholder group will be created to provide input on various issues under consideration, and LCRA and Austin will report on the activities of the Water Partnership on their Web sites and directly to the LCRA Board, Austin City Council and its advisory boards and commissions, as well as the regional water planning group (Region K).?Approval of the supplemental water supply agreement also confirms the settlement of a long-standing dispute over water returned to the Colorado River from the City of Austin’s wastewater treatment facilities. The settlement agreement was approved in June 2007 and allows Austin and LCRA to share the water returned to the Colorado River and provides for environmental flow needs in the lower Colorado River and Matagorda Bay. To implement the settlement agreement additional water rights authorizations may be needed from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“Rather than preparing for an expensive, lengthy court battle, LCRA and the City have come together to resolve our differences in a manner that benefits customers throughout the basin, provides for environmental needs in the basin and establishes a framework for responsible water supply planning,” LCRA Board Chair Ray Wilkerson said.
Lower Colorado River Authority November 9