September 18, 2013
As the Highland Lakes that supply Austin's water continue to dwindle, the Lower Colorado River Authority may take the unprecedented step of cutting off freshwater flows it normally releases from the lakes into Matagorda Bay.
Facing an increasingly desperate need for water to supply cities like Austin, the LCRA is considering whether to ask permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to cut off the freshwater flows, sometimes known as "environmental flows," that are usually required by the state to maintain the ecological health of water bodies farther downstream that the Colorado River empties into, namely Matagorda Bay. Board members will decide whether to ask permission for the cutoff in a meeting Wednesday morning.
The fact that the authority is considering such a move has prompted criticism from environmental advocates and some state and local officials. They worry that stopping the environmental flows could cripple wildlife and the fishing industry in Matagorda Bay — long considered a jewel of the Texas Gulf Coast — while Austinites are allowed to water their lawns without any new restrictions.
“All counties up and down the whole Colorado basin, we’re all in this drought together,” said Kent Pollard, a Matagorda County commissioner. “It certainly seems very unfair in my viewpoint for us, in this one area, to suffer any more economically than any of the other locations.”