The Lower Colorado River Authority is cracking down on people who take water from the Highland Lakes or lower Colorado River without a valid contract and is asking anyone who spots a possible violation to report it to LCRA.
Many of those believed to be taking water without a contract are people who live along the Highland Lakes and pull water directly from the lakes to water their lawns.
Though the amount of water estimated to be illegally diverted is small in comparison to the amount of water in the Highland Lakes and the lower Colorado River, every gallon of water is important, especially during this severe drought.
“LCRA is committed to protecting the water supply for this region,” LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson said. “People are required to have a contract and pay for water they take from the lakes. It’s only fair that everyone who takes water from the lakes or the river plays by the same rules. It’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do, and it’s the law.”
Wilson is expanding LCRA’s enforcement team by bringing in additional personnel from other areas of LCRA, including Water Conservation, Water Surface Management and the LCRA Rangers. The increased lake patrols will begin Aug. 1.
“I want people to know we’re serious about this,” he said. “We’ve got about a half-dozen cases we could turn over to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality within the next two weeks, and we will turn over more cases as we document additional violations.”
LCRA has sent thousands of letters to lakeside property owners over the last few years informing them of the requirement that anyone taking water from the lake have a domestic use contract. This and other community outreach increased the number of domestic use contracts more than 6,000 percent, from fewer than 60 in 2009 to more than 3,700 this summer.
LCRA also notified several property owners their cases were going to be turned over to TCEQ, but in every case, the property owner responded by getting the required contract.
LCRA also is increasing enforcement of possible illegal diversions along the Colorado River between Lake Travis and Matagorda Bay. LCRA soon will begin aerial inspection by helicopter to assist in documenting any unauthorized diversions in the lower river.
Wilson said he is increasing LCRA’s enforcement efforts to coincide with the hottest, driest time of the year.
“This is the time of year when people tend to water their lawns the most, so it makes sense this is when we need the most people patrolling looking for violators,” Wilson said.
The increased enforcement means LCRA will be patrolling the Highland Lakes by water and on land almost every day of the week looking for possible domestic use violators. Domestic use customers are allowed to water only once a week – on Saturday for addresses ending in odd numbers and on Sunday for addresses ending in even numbers.
After identifying a possible violation, LCRA then must investigate each case fully before taking further action. Some property owners may have pumps, but may already have a contract with LCRA, or may be using well water or treated water from local utilities to water their lawns.
LCRA estimates there are roughly 6,000 domestic pumps on the Highland Lakes, but many of those are not in use because of lower lake levels caused by the drought. Residents only need contracts if they are pumping water.
In addition, LCRA is asking the public to join in the heightened enforcement by reporting possible violations to firstname.lastname@example.org; by filling out a violation form atlcra.org/domesticuse; or by calling the domestic use hotline at 800-776-5272, Ext. 1535.
To secure a domestic use contract, property owners should email email@example.com, or call 800-776-5272, Ext. 1535.