Colorado River at “Critical” flow standard; Bastrop Wells

The drought is not over in the Colorado River basin and the environmental flow standard for the river at Bastrop is in “critical” stage.  At this stage the LCRA is required to maintain a minimum flow of 120 cubic feet per second at the Bastrop Gage.   Because the rice farmers are not getting water this summer, the flow at Bastrop can be expected to drop to this critical level as soon as the rains stop.  The only supplement will be the Garwood irrigation water right.

You can watch the Bastrop Gage at this link.

I see there are issues with the City of Bastrop water wells.  Most of these wells are “alluvial” wells, meaning they are in the Colorado River alluvial aquifer and are impacted by the river level.  This is the first time since the Highland Lakes were completed that the rice farmers have not received water and so the river is at a historic low point for this time of year in Bastrop (except for the rainfall we have been getting).   We can expect that the Bastrop water wells will be impacted by the “critical” and historic low flow.


  1. Steward


    That is a very good question. The water that rice farmer have depended on for about 85 of the 100+ years that they have been raising rice in Wharton and Matagorda counties comes from the Highland Lakes. Prior to the creation of the Highland Lakes, the farmers used “run-of-river” water, but now very little of the water is “run-of-river” water. Some of the water that is diverted for rice farming gets back into the Colorado River and Matagorda Bay, but very little. Most of it is consumed through evapotranspiration (evaporation as it is transpired through the plants). With modern agriculture practices like laser leveling of the fields, the irrigation practices are fairly efficient and little water is “lost” back to the river. With the second ratoon crop (which is not a planted crop, but which is a re-sprouting of the first crop), some of the water is left on the fields to benefit fall migrating waterfowl.

  2. Victoria

    I don’t understand one statement: “rice farmers have not received water and so the river is at a historic low point . . .”

    It seems that if rice farmers DID receive water then that would be one more drain of water, hence a further lowering of the river. I’m sure I’m missing something.

    Perhaps rice farmers received water from someplace else. Perhaps the Highland Lakes? And then water from the Highland Lakes drained from rice fields to river?

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