A deadline is looming for many rice farmers in southeast Texas. If there isn’t 850,000 acre-feet of water in the Highland Lakes by midnight tonight, the Lower Colorado River Authority will not be sending water downstream for rice farmers this year. In this video by Jeff Heimsath for StateImpact Texas, we travel to Bay City, Texas to hear firsthand what this cutoff would mean for rice farmers and the businesses that depend on them. “We certainly don’t have any expectations of making any money,” says Joe Crane, who runs a rice mill in Bay City. “We’re just hoping to hold on.”
The combined storage of Lakes Buchanan and Travis, which typically hold much of the water for rice farmers, is at 846,800 feet as of 8 a.m. today. (An acre-foot of water is a volume measurement equal to about 325,800 gallons of water.) If more than 3,000 acre-feet of water — the equivalent of around a billion gallons — doesn’t come into the lakes by midnight tonight, most rice farmers will lose their season entirely.