LCRA again decides to restrict water to rice growers

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has again decided to restrict the water supply to rice growers for the upcoming growing season. Ducks Unlimited is once again disappointed in the decision. Waterfowl, wading birds and other wetland wildlife will face yet another year of reduced habitat availability in the critical wintering area of the Texas Mid-Coast. Severe drought continues to plague the region, including the Highland Lakes watershed, which supplies irrigation water for agriculture on the Texas Mid-Coast.

“We understand that the LCRA must take a conservative approach when dealing with limited and unpredictable water resources, and we continue to support LCRA’s proactive decision to move forward with the construction of a proposed off-channel reservoir in the lower basin,” said Dr. Todd Merendino, DU manager of conservation programs. “However, withholding water from rice growers for a second straight year represents another setback for wintering waterfowl and an insurmountable economic challenge for local economies dependent on agriculture and waterfowl hunting.”

Recent research indicates that lack of adequate habitat along the Gulf Coast is impacting the health of some species. Approximately 60 percent of the estimated 1.96-million-bird waterfowl population for the Texas Mid-Coast typically relies on ricelands (active and idle flooded rice fields) to meet their midwinter food needs. In addition, the Gulf Coast Joint Venture identifies specific population objectives for more than 12 million shorebirds and wading birds that are highly dependent on water in ricelands for nesting, migration and wintering habitat. With projections predicting a doubling of the population in the state over the next 50 years, water availability will become an increasingly difficult issue. Ducks Unlimited is committed to ensuring wildlife habitat needs are fully communicated so that decision makers can make the most informed water allocation choices.

“If there is any silver lining, perhaps it is that the ongoing drought has increased awareness of the urgency with which the state should address water needs,” said DU Conservation Outreach Biologist Kirby Brown. “We need to be working together across all user groups and geographies to conserve water resources every step of the way, and to ensure that future generations of Texans, business owners, wildlife and waterfowl all have sufficient water resources to thrive in the Lone Star State.”

Texas DU Members Take Action

Fax a letter or call your Senator asking them NOT to support SB 1631 currently being considered by the Texas State Legislature. It establishes a permanent, arbitrary cut-off volume of 850,000 acre feet combined water storage in Lakes Travis and Buchanan, below which the irrigation water supplied to interruptible customers would automatically cease.  The Texas Mid-Coast Rice Prairie Wetlands Complex provides continentally significant habitat for many species of waterfowl and is the winter home for nearly 3 million waterfowl annually.  These managed wetlands are in grave danger, and we need you to take action today to save them and the waterfowl that depend upon them!