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Texas Rice Farms Won't Get Water For Irrigation

Fri, 03/02/2012 - 1:03pm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Central Texas river authority said Friday that Hill Country lakes fell short of levels sufficient to provide irrigation water to downriver rice farmers.

That makes 2012 the first year in which the farmers will not get the water from the Lower Colorado River Authority.

As of Friday morning, lakes Travis and Buchanan were about 3,200 acre-feet, or more than 1 billion gallons, short of the level they'd need to reach for the farmers to receive water.

LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma had said Thursday that the authority did not expect to reach the 850,000 acre-feet lake levels needed to provide water to the farmers.

Rice farmers have been preparing for such a situation for months. They've known the worst 1-year drought in Texas history had so severely depleted the Highland Lakes it was unlikely it could rain enough for them to plant their crops.

Texas is one of the six largest rice producers in the country. The farmers in the Colorado River basin make up almost three-quarters of the state's total rice acreage.

At current lake levels, a small percentage of farmers, those with senior water rights along the river, will get about 20,000 acre-feet of water. The rest will not get any.

The drought has eased in recent weeks with some significant winter rains. But most of the state still remains under some level of drought.

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