LCRA proposes higher raise water rates for Central Texans

AUSTIN --There's no doubt, the drought is taking its toll on Lake Travis.

Sometimes island, which is normally covered by water, was a full time island on Monday. And now the drought is about to take a toll on some budgets.

At its board meeting on Tuesday, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the entity that sells water to Central Texas cities and counties, talked about how much it would have to increase rates to make its ends meet.

Well there are a lot of different reasons. Costs continue to go up. We have not sold interruptible water downstream for two going on three years now, said LCRABoard Chair Tim Timmerman. So that creates a big hole in our budget. So we're having to cover those cost and we're, in addition to that, we're looking at these new reservoir projects and new water supply projects.

LCRA officials say the money would pay for a $206 million reservoir in Wharton County. It could add as much as 90,000 acre-feet of water each year. An acre-foot is what three average Austin households use in a year. The reservoir should be completed by 2017.

The LCRA is drilling five wells at Lost Pines PowerPark in Bastrop County. Two of the wells are already pumping, and the rest should be running by summer. That project costs about $15 million.

The LCRA also wants to pump water from a 5,000 acre site in Bastrop County on land belonging to the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

LCRAofficials say the rate increase is necessary because Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are constantly being pushed to lower levels due to frequent drought and a growing population.

So the Board Finance and Administration Committee is suggesting a 19.5 percent rate increase to firm customers, which are generally cities and counties. That would raise the current rate of $151 per acre foot of water to $179.47 per acre foot starting January 2015.

In 2016, that rate would increase to $192 per acre foot and depending on several factors, the rate could be as much as $251 by 2019.

So what does that mean for your household?

If you live in Austin, not much. In 1999, the city signed a $100 million contract with LCRA to ensure sufficient water through 2050, so it won't pay the new rate.

As for other cities and counties, including Leander and Cedar Park, each entity charges its customers differently, but LCRAofficials estimate a family of four will pay about $1.05 more a month for water. That amount will increase steadily each year to about $3.70 more a month by 2019.

The LCRABoard plans to host a series of public input meetings.

Click here for the schedule and to read more on the proposed rate increase.


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