In order to preserve the water supply, LCRA - with permission from the state - cut off Highland Lakes water to most interruptible water customers in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In July 2015, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved emergency drought relief again for the remainder of the 2015 growing season.
Water supply operations are conducted consistent with all applicable water rights and agreements. During water supply operations, needs for water are first met with the natural flow of the Colorado River - to the extent allowable - to reduce the amount of water used from the Highland Lakes. Water may also be released from any of the Highland Lakes as needed to manage excess flood waters.
Releases from Lake Austin are made when needed to meet downstream customer needs, and to supplement the natural flow of the lower river for environmental flow requirements. Customers that take water from the Colorado River downstream of Lake Austin include Fayette Power Project, industrial customers in Matagorda County, the City of Pflugerville, Decker Creek Power Station, Lost Pines Power Park and others. Environmental flow requirements include TCEQ requirements to maintain instream flows along the lower Colorado River and supply freshwater inflows to Matagorda Bay and estuary.
Releases from Lake Travis are made when needed to supply water to customers along Lake Austin, and to replace water that is released or has evaporated from Lake Austin. Customers that take water from Lake Austin include the City of Austin, West Travis County Public Utility Agency and others.
Releases from Lake Buchanan are made when needed through Buchanan, Inks, Wirtz and Starcke dams to replace a portion of the water taken by cities, power plants, evaporation and other uses along lakes Inks, LBJ, and Marble Falls, and to replace a portion of the water that is taken or released from Lake Travis. Customers that take water from the Highland Lakes above Mansfield Dam include the City of Cedar Park, Travis County WCID No. 17, the City of Leander, Lakeway MUD, Ferguson Power Plant and others.