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Liquid Assets: The State of Texas’ Water Resources

Region K Plan

Lower Colorado Region (K)

Region K Map

Text Description of Map of the Lower Colorado Region (K)

Exhibit 30: Map of the Lower Colorado Region (K)

Population growth in the Austin metro region, surrounding suburban districts, and in the outlying retirement communities has greatly altered the population and water needs estimates.

Region K, also known as the Lower Colorado region, begins in Mills and San Saba counties in the Texas Hill Country and makes its way southeastward toward the Gulf of Mexico. The region serves much of the Hill Country, including Llano, Fredericksburg, Austin and Pflugerville, as well as Bay City and other coastal communities (Exhibit 30). Agriculture, government, manufacturing (primarily semiconductor and other technological industries), retail and service industries are the region’s economic mainstays.78

Strategies Used and Estimated Costs

Total capital costs for all of Region K’s water management strategies are estimated at $358.2 million. The region’s water management strategies are projected to produce 861,930 acre-feet by 2060 and fall into four major categories of strategies: conservation, groundwater, surface water, and water reuse (Exhibit31).79

Status of Major Water Projects and Strategies

Some strategies in the Lower Colorado Region may be changed or substituted with a new strategy based on the regional assessments. The Onion Creek recharge strategy originally would build two dams to provide water to Hays County. The retained water would then be released as needed to meet water needs downstream. However, the recharge strategy will need revisions based on reviews with the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and City of Austin. Once new strategy decisions have been made, Region K will host at least one public meeting to discuss them.

Exhibit 31

Lower Colorado Region (K) Water Management Strategies

Description Capital Costs Water Gained in Acre-Feet Average Capital Cost per Acre-Feet
Conservation $2,903,692 194,315 $15
Desalination $96,537,717 29,568 $3,265
Groundwater $65,445,175 95,742 $684
Surface Water $15,227,525 398,215 $38
Water Reuse $178,059,959 144,090 $1,236
Total $358,174,068 861,930 $416

Note: Capital cost figures do not include administrative, programmatic or other costs that may be required to implement water management strategies.

Source: Texas Water Development Board.

Region K’s groundwater strategies, which require the bulk of its capital costs, include projects to maintain adequate groundwater supplies through expansion of the Carrizo-Wilcox and Trinity Aquifers, as well as other aquifers throughout the region. Expansion of the Carrizo-Wilcox is estimated at $13 million and the Trinity Aquifer expansion project has an estimated cost of $12.2 million. Overall, the region’s groundwater projects are on target to meet projected water demand levels.80

Region K is also working on a groundwater strategy in partnership with the Fox Crossing Water District to replace Lake Goldthwaite, which could include freshwater and brackish water from the Trinity and Hickory Aquifers in Mills County and the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer in Lampasas and Llano Counties.81

In addition the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and San Antonio River System (SAWS) are partnering on a project that will produce 150,000 acre feet of water in 2060 at a capital cost of $2.1 billion. This water management strategy originates in Region K but will meet water needs in both Region K and Region L. (For more information on this project see LCRA/SAWS Water Project on pages 41 and 42.)

Not all recommended strategies are being implemented. For example, Region K’s recommended strategy to desalinate brackish groundwater, estimated at $96.5 million, is not being pursued. Rather, municipalities are considering implementing this strategy in the future. However, a water reuse project for the city of Austin is currently under way and on target, and is projected to provide the region with 33,537 additional acre-feet per year by 2060.

According to the Texas Water Development Board, if the strategies listed above are not implemented, residents of Region K stand to lose $335 million in income and 4,480 full- and part-time jobs by 2010, and more than $4.3 billion in income and nearly 50,000 jobs by 2060. In addition, state and local governments could lose $8 million in annual tax revenue by 2010 and about $248 million by 2060.82

Regional Challenges and Successes

Population growth in the Austin metro region, surrounding suburban districts, and in the outlying retirement communities has greatly altered the population and water needs estimates. Region K will work with local entities, TWDB and others to produce new projections based on findings within the area.

Cities and districts in Region K have indicated that they know little of the conservation measures required of them. In response, the region will re-evaluate conservation and drought contingency strategies for each water user groups (WUG). In addition, there will be a review of significant climate changes to the area.

Because of the changes Region K will be making to its water strategies, additional study is suggested on water availability, quality and cost. Additionally, the region will continue to encourage public participation in the planning process.83

Finally, the region has repeatedly recommended the following water segments be studied to potentially identify them as ecologically unique: the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, Bull Creek, the Colorado River (including Gorman Creek and Shaws Bend), Cummins Creek, the Llano River, the Pedernales River, Rocky Creek and Hamilton Creek.84 Region K members have indicated frustration with the lack of policy action in response to their recommendations for these studies. Until the Legislature makes a decision, no further work will be performed on studies on these areas.85


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