The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hear public testimony Wednesday on the Lower Colorado River Authority’s emergency request to stop the flow of water heading downstream to Texas rice farmers.
Jennifer Walker with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said they are especially concerned with this year’s emergency order because of the number involved.
"The trigger for when interruptible water will be cut off is quite a bit higher -- they moved it from 850,000 acre feet combined storage for the Highland Lakes to 1.1 million acre feet combined storage," Walker said.
That means both Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis would have to be more than half full before the LCRA would release water downstream, meaning for a third year in a row rice farmers would not receive water from the Colorado River.
But Walker said there is more at stake than addressing agricultural needs.
"The fresh water that comes off the rice fields but that also comes down the Colorado River brings in sediment, bring down nutrients,” Walker said.
She said that’s vital because those elements serve as food for oysters, shrimp and fish at the mouth of the Colorado River, impacting a 2-billion dollar fishing and shrimping industry.
Walker said the Sierra Club is also concerned because the plan goes beyond an emergency water plan and actually addresses some form of curtailment for irrigation farming until the Highland Lakes are full.