As area lakes dry up and the flow of tributaries moves down to a trickle, an overflow of people were on hand Tuesday as the Lower Colorado River Authority Board met to discuss ways to manage the drought.
"Since we were last in front of the board, conditions have continued to worsen in the state and particularly in our watershed," LCRA Executive Manager of Water Services Suzanne Zarling said. "Recently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has announced that La Nina has arrived earlier than expected and we'll continue to have a dry forecast for the fall and the winter."
The Lower Colorado River Authority Board is now forecasting the combined storage for both Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan will drop to 600,000 acre-feet by March.
"If we hit that number, then we have hit conditions that are worse than any conditions we have experienced in our basin," Zarling said.
They’re conditions which could spell trouble for some farmers downstream, dependent on the water for irrigation.
"Livelihoods can very well be affected if they decide to completely curtail the rice industry; not just the rice farmers themselves, the fertilizer dealerships, schools, property tax values. There's a huge trickle down and trickle out effect," rice farmer Robbie Cook said.
That's because their water supply would be cut off completely to make sure firm customers, like cities, have their supply.
"We understand that there's only so much water to go around. We understand the need to protect the firm customers," Cook said.
But the board is now considering limiting or cutting off water to farmers sooner rather than later.
“If a drought, worse than record condition, hit during the crop year, it would trigger action by the board to stop water going to irrigation which would probably, likely ruin the crop, while having wasted the water that was released," Zarling said.
It's news farmers who say they're just trying to keep their head above water for one more year don't want to hear.
Before the LCRA can deviate from the state-approved water management plan, the LCRA needs permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Board members will be talking more about drought management and other issues at their meeting Wednesday.