Region K - Lower Colorado
2001 Regional Water Plan Overview
Basic Plan Facts
- Population is projected to more than double between 2000 and 2050
- Total capital cost of proposed water supply measures: $256 million
- Four minor reservoirs -Llano Off-Channel Reservoir, Goldthwaite Channel Dam and Off-channel Reservoir, and Mills County Reservoir- proposed
- A major diversion project and four "ring dike" reservoirs proposed to meet needs in Region L
What's at Issue?
The protection of bay and estuary inflows is particularly relevant for Region K due to the importance of the Matagorda Bay estuary to the economy and quality of life of the region. Potential impacts from proposed strategies in the 2001 regional plan to the freshwater inflows to Matagorda Bay could be devastating to the region's wildlife and the coastal economy. These proposed strategies are the result of the increasing pressure that population growth in this region, and in its neighboring region (L), is putting on the limited water supplies of Central Texas.
Despite relatively high municipal use rates in the area, the region did not incorporate advanced conservation measures into planning efforts. For example, much of the anticipated shortages for the cities of Dripping Springs, Llano, and Goldthwaite could be resolved if these areas were subject to increased conservation measures. In addition to this, the consumption rate that was used to calculate demands for Austin - the largest municipal water user in the region - was inflated. Because of this, future municipal demands for the region are also inflated, which can lead to an overemphasis on costly and environmentally harmful water projects.
There is an emphasis on agricultural conservation measures, especially with rice farming. This is important given that rice farming is the largest user of water in the Lower Colorado River Basin. Unfortunately, the measures do not stand alone, but are tied to the success of a specific proposed strategy - the transport of water from the Colorado River to San Antonio.
Here are some of the items the Region K Planning Group must address.
Conservation and Drought Management
For conservation and drought management, the plan needs to...
- Include recommendations for advanced municipal conservation throughout the region.
- Base planning only on true municipal use rates. The rates used for Austin are 213 gallons per person per day for 2000 with a projected rate of 194 gallons per person per day in 2030. The city of Austin was already down to a rate of 170 gallons per capita per day in 1996. Inflated demands lead to overemphasis on costly water projects and the potential contribution of conservation.
- Incorporate a sustainable approach to the use of groundwater in the region. Large withdrawals from the Gulf Coast Aquifer are proposed without addressing impacts on baseflow of the Colorado River and other streams.
To secure the protection of flows for fish and wildlife, the plan needs to...
- Fully assess how environmental flows are affected by current projects and existing water permits. Ensuring the Matagorda Bay and estuary inflow needs and in-stream flow needs below Lake Travis will require careful management of releases from the lakes in the Austin region. The proposed diversion of water to San Antonio could reduce freshwater inflows down to only 51% (or less) of critical levels during the driest years. Adequate flows are critical to the tourism and fishing industries along the coast.
- Designate stream segments in the region that meet the criteria as having "unique ecological value". The 2001 regional plan nominates nine stream segments for further study; however, no segments were designated. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends 19 segments for designation in this region.
- Include information on the nature of the springs in the region and the habitats they support. The 2001 regional plan only includes information on Barton Springs while at least 189 springs are known to exist in the region.
To ensure that only the most economically sound water supply strategies are implemented, the plan needs to...
- Compare the costs and benefits of the supply alternatives in a consistent and reasonable manner.
The National Wildlife Federation analyzed the initially prepared plan using their Principles for an Environmentally Sound Regional Water Plan. Please contact us for more information about this analysis.