Meeting Instream Flow Needs of Lower Colorado River in Texasby Quentin W. Martin, Lower Colorado River Authority, Austin, United States,
Document Type: Proceeding Paper
Part of: Water Management in the '90s: A Time for Innovation
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), an agency of the State of Texas, manages the surface waters of the lower Colorado River in Texas. The major water supply source in the lower basin is the Highland Lakes chain of reservoirs in Central Texas. The use of water from these lakes for environmental protection and enhancement has received increasing attention in recent years. The LCRA recently completed major revisions to its comprehensive Water Management Plan (WMP) for the Highland Lakes. These revisions included changes to incorporate the results of a three year study of instream flow needs in the lower Colorado River. The instream flow needs were determined to consist of two flow regimes: critical and target. The critical flows are considered to be the daily minimum flows needed to maintain minimum viable aquatic conditions for important fish species. The target flow needs are those daily flows which maximize the available habitat for a variety of fish. After evaluating numerous policy options, LCRA revised to WMP to allow the release of water from the Highland Lakes to maintain the daily river flows at no less than the critical flows in all years. Further, in those years when drought-induced irrigation water supply curtailments do not occur, LCRA will release water from the lakes, to the extent of daily inflows, to maintain daily river flows at no less than the target levels. To fully honor this pledge, LCRA committed an average of 28,700 acre-feet annually, during any ten consecutive years, from the dependable supply of the Highland Lakes.
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