LCRA board takes historic action to expand, protect region’s water supply

Board approves region’s first new water supply reservoir in decades,

Adopts changes to Water Management Plan application

LCRA_LogoSmallThe LCRA Board of Directors on Wednesday took historic action to expand and protect the water supply of the lower Colorado River basin.

The Board unanimously:

  • Gave final approval to the first new water supply reservoir in the lower Colorado River basin in decades. The 40,000 acre-foot off-channel reservoir near Lane City in Wharton County could be filled several times a year, adding up to 90,000 acre-feet of firm water to the region’s supply.
  • Agreed to revise LCRA’s 2012 proposed amendments to the Water Management Plan, which sets out how water from lakes Travis and Buchanan is managed. LCRA staff now will finalize the application, which will go to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for action.


LCRA plans to break ground on the Lane City Reservoir Project later this year. The $214.9 million reservoir is expected to begin operating in 2017.

“This is a major step that will benefit the entire region for generations,” said Timothy Timmerman, chair of the LCRA Board of Directors. This will be the first significant new water supply reservoir for this region since the Highland Lakes were built back in the 1930s and 40s.

“We know we can’t fix the drought, but the key to working through the drought is conservation and development of new water supplies, and I’m proud to say LCRA is leading the way in both,” Timmerman said.

The new reservoir will reduce the need to send water from the Highland Lakes to meet water needs near the coast, and improve agricultural water reliability and efficiency. The reservoir also will reduce the risk of water curtailment.

“This project makes common sense and it makes economic sense,” LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson said. “Everyone in the basin will benefit from this reservoir. Not only will it improve the reliability of water for agriculture, it also will keep more water in the Highland Lakes. That benefits everyone in the basin, because the determination of how much water is available for use throughout the basin is based on the amount of water in the lakes.”

The Lane City reservoir will enable LCRA to capture and store significant amounts of water downstream of the Highland Lakes for the first time. The reservoir could be used to capture water from rains in the lower basin, an area that averages almost double the amount of rain annually than the area upstream of Austin, as well as water sent downstream from the Highland Lakes for customers that no longer need it by the time it arrives several days later.

By capturing and holding water downstream for later use, LCRA has estimated the reservoir will add an average of 90,000 acre-feet per year to the LCRA’s overall water supply.

In February 2012, the LCRA Board committed to increasing the firm water supply by at least 100,000 acre-feet by 2017. The reservoir will play a major role in meeting that goal. LCRA also is pursuing the use of groundwater in Bastrop County and other new water supply projects.

The LCRA Board earlier approved $35 million in funding for land and preliminary engineering, permitting and design. Almost $159 million of the remaining $179.9 million cost will be spent for construction of the reservoir. The remainder will be spent for engineering, permitting, testing and inspection, and a contingency fund.

The Board approval authorizes construction on the reservoir, including repairing and refurbishing the Lane City Pump Station, constructing a new re-lift pump station, and a new river return structure.

The Texas Water Development Board in September 2014 approved LCRA’s loan application to fund the project.


On Wednesday, the LCRA Board also approved a proposal to revise its 2012 application to amend the Water Management Plan. The Board adopted revisions that would better protect the water supply for firm customers, mainly cities and industries that purchase “firm” water that is available without shortage during a repeat of the 1950s drought, which represents the worst drought conditions this region has seen.

The revisions allow LCRA to adapt its operations as drought conditions change. A primary goal of the revisions is to maintain combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan above 600,000 acre-feet through a repeat of historic hydrology, and establish three sets of operating conditions to be used to determine the amount of interruptible water available for agricultural use.

In the last month, LCRA held a series of meetings with stakeholders representing interests throughout the basin to explain the proposed amendments to the plan and seek their input. Through this process, the proposed amendments were changed slightly, resulting in widespread stakeholder support for the plan.

LCRA staff will finalize the revised application and submit it to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in the next month. TCEQ must approve all changes to the Water Management Plan, which governs LCRA’s management of the Highland Lakes to meet the needs of major water users throughout the lower Colorado River basin.