AUSTIN (KXAN) - This is part two of our two-night in-depth series. Read part one here .
Ron Weindorf lives with his wife Joan on the northern shores of Lake Travis.
"As you can see around, on the side of the roads, everywhere - the animals are really struggling for water and for grass to eat," Weindorf said. "I take the time to buy some birdseed and get some old bread and put it out for them so that they get a little snack everyday."
Extremely dry conditions have driven wildlife into their neighborhood in search of food.
"When the lake is full and doing well," Weindorf said, "the water is up to these trees right here," pointing to trees at least thirty feet above the current water level.
With Lake Travis currently 38 feet below average
, and 50 feet short of being full, the Point Venture and Lakeway marinas have been forced to relocate to deeper water as inlets and coves dry up.
Pat Mulligan lives in the Spicewood community, and serves on the Central Texas Water Coalition
. The CTWC
is a group advocating for the conservation of the water in the Highland lakes.
"I understand [rice farmers'] position," Mulligan said. "They've got to make money. But we've got to live."
"When it was all set up, it was a whole different community 30 years ago. Now, there are millions of people living around here drinking that water," Mulligan said.
sells water to two categories of consumer:
- Firm customers, such as the City of Austin , are guaranteed water even in a severe drought. Firm customers pay $151 per acre-foot of water (one acre-foot will supply three central Texas households for one year).
- Interruptible customers, including rice farmers. Unlike firm customers, interruptible customers can be cut off in drought situations. And since their water is not always guaranteed, they pay less - between $35-40 per acre-foot after fees.
During 2011, a severe drought year in Texas, agricultural customers used more than twice as much water from the Highland lakes as cities used.
"We're doing our part. We're saving water here," Mulligan said. "That's what those guys need to do downstream."
As of the latest LCRA
ruling, there is currently enough water in the Highland lakes to prompt releases this spring for rice farmers.
Many are not happy about that possibility.
Senators Kirk Watson and Troy Fraser recently sent a strongly-worded letter to the LCRA
, asking the Board to "rescind its imprudent decision" to send water downstream, and stating that the LCRA
's duty to firm customers such as the City of Austin
is "unmistakably clear and yet inexplicably ignored."
"It's about living, it's not about finances anymore," Mulligan said. "It's about survival and drinking water for families and the community."
As announced in December, the LCRA
Board is calling an emergency drought meeting
next Tuesday, when the Board could change their ruling for water releases in 2013. One of the proposals to be voted on includes not sending any water to most downstream farmers for a second year in a row.
At the time the Board adopted an emergency drought relief plan in November 2012, Chair Tim Timmerman said the Board would keep a close eye on combined storage and the weather, and would considering revising LCRA's request to TCEQ if conditions warranted. After an extremely dry November and December, Board members will revisit the issue to determine if they should modify their earlier request.
“As this historic drought continues, it becomes more and more apparent that we must do whatever it takes to protect the firm water supplies for the City of Austin and other municipalities,” Board Chair Tim Timmerman said.
KXAN will have the latest on the results of next week's meeting as soon as the LCRA
reaches a decision.
The ' Regional Water Planning 101
' session is free, and will take place on Wednesday, January 9th at 10 A.M. in the LCRA facility located at 3505 Montopolis Drive in Austin.