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The LCRA operates the six dams on the Colorado River that form the scenic Highland Lakes of Central Texas. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News and Reporting Texas

What Is The Lower Colorado River Authority?

Background

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is a conservation and reclamation district formed by the Texas Legislature in 1934. It plays a variety of roles in Central Texas including, delivering electricity, managing the water supply and environment of the lower Colorado River basin, developing water and wastewater utilities, providing public recreation areas and supporting community and economic development.  It has no taxing authority and operates solely on utility revenues and fees generated from supplying energy, water and community services.

The LCRA has been the primary wholesale provider of electricity in Central Texas since 1937. It supplies wholesale power to 42 city-owned utilities and electric cooperatives and one former co-op, serving over a million people in all. The LCRA also generates power from coal, natural gas and wind.  It has operated the Fayette Power Project, a three-unit coal-fired power plant near La Grange, since 1979.

The LCRA operates the six dams on the Colorado River that form the Highland Lakes of Central Texas. These are lakes Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, Travis and Austin. The LCRA is responsible for discharging water to manage floods, managing invasive underwater plants and regulating drought management.

Drought management has become an especially controversial issue for the LCRA during the 2011 drought, the worst one year drought in Texas history. Big businesses and those with individual interests have disagreed over how to use limited water resources. Currently, the LCRA is trying to balance the interests of rice farmers with demands from the White Stallion Energy Center, a coal plant in Matagorda County in southeast Texas.

In 2010, the San Antonio Water System took LCRA to court for purportedly violating a contract established in 1998. The LCRA was contracted to pipe water to San Antonio for 80 years in exchange for funding for downstream rice fields and dams. The suit came after LCRA said it didn’t have enough water in its basin to protect its rate payers and share water with San Antonio. A judge threw out the case, saying suits between governmental agencies are limited. San Antonio has since appealed the ruling.

In 2011, LCRA General Manager Tom Mason resigned from his post. Rumors circulated that he was pushed out for having too much of an environmentalist agenda when others wanted a more pro-business leader. The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter director, Ken Kramer, levied charges that Governor Rick Perry wanted his own appointee in the position. The LCRA maintained that the decision was untainted by politics.

Latest Posts

New Proposal Could Cut Off Rice Farmers for Third Year in a Row

After a month of heavy rains and flooding culminating in the wettest October in history for Austin, many in Central Texas are likely wondering if the drought is over. Far from it: Austin’s reservoirs in the Highland Lakes are still very low, roughly only a third full, and could reach their lowest levels in history [...]

As Drought Continues, Texas Reservoirs Could Hit All-Time Lows

Texas is still in a drought, and it’s to the point where reservoir levels in the state may soon reach an all-time collective low. “If they keep going down at the present rate, it will only take about two more weeks before they will set an all-time record for the difference between how much water [...]

Texas Community Without Water Still Waiting For a Solution

SPICEWOOD, Texas — Many people who retired in Spicewood Beach came here for the water — the boating, fishing, and the summer days they imagined their grandkids would spend swimming in Lake Travis. In this small community less than an hour outside of Austin, the Fourth of July used to mean eating barbecue at picnic tables [...]

After Rice Farmers Cut Off Last Year, Water Use Cut in Half in Central Texas

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In 2012, for the first time in history, most rice farmers on the Lower Colorado River in South Texas were cut off from water for irrigation. According to an emergency drought plan, there wasn’t enough water in the Highland Lakes of Buchanan and Travis to send water downstream. In the months since, those lakes have [...]

State Tells River Authority Water Plan Needs More Review

The extreme drought and 2011 releases to farmers lowered levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis (pictured) in Central Texas.

In the ongoing battle over water in the Highland Lakes of Central Texas, the City of Austin and lake residents and businesses scored something of a victory this week when the state told the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) that its water management plan will need more review. The LCRA manages the water in the [...]

What’s Happening This Week at the Texas Legislature

Several bills pertaining to water, the environment and public policy will be discussed at the Texas Capitol this week.

In the gauntlet that is the Texas Legislature, the bills that have made it this far are looking at the final few obstacles in the way of becoming law. StateImpact Texas has compiled a short list of bills pertaining to water, the environment and energy that could be heard by House and Senate this week. [...]

How One Lawmaker Wants to Tackle Leaky Water Supply Reporting

A new Texas bill could make sure towns are reporting low water supplies to authorities.

New legislation could plug the leaks in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) reporting requirements for municipalities running low on water. Right now, a water utility can be nearly tapped out, and it still isn’t required to report the problem. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, has filed a bill, HB 252, that would require water [...]

How New Texas Water Supplies Could Help Both Farmers and Cities

Many rice mills and drying and storage facilities in Southeast Texas didn't see much work last year. If they're cut off again this year, the slow business will continue.

For the rice farmers of Southeast Texas, 2012 was a rough year. For the first time in history, they were cut off from water because there wasn’t enough in the main reservoirs of the Lower Colorado River to supply them. In 2013, they face the same situation: if there isn’t enough water in the Highland [...]

What Are ‘Environmental Flows’ And How Does Texas Protect Them?

A parched Brazos River wends its way through Knox County.

Even if the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) doesn’t send water downstream to rice farmers this year, the Colorado River will still flow. Without that constant flow, the river would dry up, destroying and inland ecosystems and the brackish estuary near the coast. But how much water should be sent downriver to maintain the ecosystem? That’s [...]

After a Year With Failing Well, Water Solution In Sight For Spicewood Beach

Longtime resident L.J. Honeycutt says TK.

Nearly a year ago, the groundwater well serving the small lakeside community of Spicewood Beach, about 40 miles outside of Austin, began to fail. Ever since, the locals there, mostly retirees, have gotten their water trucked in several times a day to keep the taps flowing. As the levels of Lake Travis have fallen during the [...]

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