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Drought Plan Update and Resources

Thank you to all of our customers who attended our public meetings in late March/early April to discuss changes being proposed to our Drought Contingency Plan, which affects the watering restrictions for our service area. With almost 100 people in attendance at each meeting, we appreciate the respectful feedback we received at the meetings, as well as during our presentation to the Men’s Breakfast Club and from those who reached out by phone or email. All of it was taken into consideration before finalizing the updated Plan, which was presented to and approved by our Board of Directors at the Board meeting on April 10, 2024. This new Plan is currently in effect.

Legal Requirements and Approved Changes

Updates to our Drought Contingency Plan are done every five years as a requirement by the Texas Water Code and are due for submittal to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on May 1, 2024. This year’s revision needed to include mandate changes from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) impacting their firm water customers (such as LMUD): At its February 21, 2024 meeting, the LCRA Board of Directors adopted an amendment to their Drought Contingency Plan that requires firm water customers to adopt and implement a watering restriction limiting irrigation of ornamental landscapes to no more than once per week when the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis drops below 900,000 acre-feet or 45 percent capacity per LCRA’s River Operations Report. The updated LMUD Drought Contingency Plan includes four stages summarized below. More information, including a link to the full Plan and a graphic summary of the Stages, can be found on our website here.

  • Stage 1 is our normal operations, defined as “mild” drought conditions, with the maximum allowance of 2-days per week automatic irrigation on an assigned day during hours when evaporation is lowest (no automatic irrigation is allowed between 10am and 7pm). The reason behind residential and commercial addresses being assigned a specific day to use the above-normal amounts of water attributed to irrigation is to reduce peak demand on our water treatment plant, which can stress the plant. No automatic irrigation is allowed on Sundays, however hand watering (defined as a manually operated hose, preferably with a functional hose-end spray nozzle with working trigger shut-off, or refillable container) is allowed at any time. “Automatic Irrigation” is defined as any inground irrigation system, a drip or soaker hose system, or unattended hose-end sprinkler.
  • Stage 2 is “moderate” drought conditions, with the maximum allowance of weekly automatic irrigation being reduced to 1-day per week on an assigned day during hours when evaporation is lowest (no automatic irrigation is allowed between 10am and 7pm). Under Stage 2, vehicle and power washing continue to be allowed at any time. The additional water needed to fill new pool installations is also allowed without a variance (a permit from the City and a plumbing permit from LMUD are still required). Additional automatic irrigation needs for establishing new landscaping is only allowed with an approved variance which must be submitted and approved prior to the supplemental water use.
  • Stage 3 is “severe” drought conditions. This stage is triggered if the combined lake levels are at or below 750,000 acre-feet or 38 percent capacity. If no significant rain falls in the next few months, leading to higher lake levels, we expect to reach this trigger level by late summer. At this Stage, the maximum allowance of 1-day per week continues, but is limited to a 6-hour window: midnight and 6am with “efficient irrigation measures in place”. As such, if excess use is suspected, the customer must be able to produce receipt for a recent irrigation system evaluation by a licensed irrigator and a functional rain sensor or soil moisture sensor must be in operation to prevent irrigation within 48 hours of rain. The continuation of 1-day per week at Stage 3 was approved in part because one goal of this Plan update was to be on the same schedule as other local water utilities to limit area-wide confusion and promote consistent messaging; since another local water utility had already passed their updated Drought Contingency Plan, allowing for 6-hours of irrigation in Stage 3, we adopted a similar allowance. The other change from Stage 2 to Stage 3 of the Plan is that the operation of outdoor water features, events, or activities (such as fountains, ponds, splash pads, misting systems, water slides, and temporary pools) is only allowed if it uses a recirculating system.
  • Stage 4 denotes an “emergency” drought stage. If we were to reach this trigger level (combined lake levels of at or below 600,000 acre-feet or 30 percent capacity), all water use needs to be strictly limited to essential use only: bathing, drinking, and cooking. At this stage, no automatic irrigation will be allowed. Any use of potable water outdoors is limited to hand watering for any deemed essential use on trees, foundations, and planting beds only. Vehicle and power washing are disallowed, except for public health purposes only.
  • Permanent Restrictions to Reduce Water Waste or Negligence: At any Stage, water waste or negligence is prohibited and can be enforced at all times. These restrictions primarily pertain to uncontrolled leaks or excess water use that is not being addressed within a timely manner. With evaporation being a significant waste of water, pool covers are also required; enforcement of this will center around customers who receive excess water use notifications and attribute it to pool refilling due to pool water evaporation.
automatic irrigation sprinkler head pop up
“Automatic Irrigation” is defined as any inground irrigation system, a drip or soaker hose system, or unattended hose-end sprinkler. Stage 1 allows for 2-day irrigation on an assigned day. Stages 2 and 3 allow for 1-day irrigation, with a 6-hour window limit in Stage 3. No automatic irrigation is allowed in Stage 4.

Fee Structure and Penalties

Our service rate and penalty fee structure remain the same: we utilize a tiered-rate fee structure and penalties that encourage water conservation by making essential use affordable and discourages excessive or negligent use. Drought surcharges are currently in effect, starting with Stage 2 of our Drought Contingency Plan, as an additional attempt to reduce demand; this only impacts customers using above 30,000 gallons per bill cycle/every two months, currently about 30 percent of our customer base. More information about Service Rates can be found on our website here.

Penalties for not following the restrictions enacted by this Plan have been increased from $200 to $500 for the first offense after an initial notification; second offense penalties have been increased from $500 to $1,000.

Notice of individual violations of drought response measures and penalties incurred due to documented violation(s) of drought measures will be sent to the current account holder’s primary e-mail, phone number, and/or mailing address via U.S. Mail, where available and/or appropriate, on file for the impacted service address(es). Data obtained to issue these notices are derived directly from LMUD’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) metering system or through observed violations by LMUD personnel. Customers may contest a penalty by citing relevant data available through their WaterSmart portal access.

Residents who observe a potential violation are encouraged to contact LMUD customer service representatives during regular business hours, however information obtained from these observations cannot be used to warrant a penalty unless the violation is subsequently verifiable through AMI data or is observed directly by LMUD personnel.

Changing How Our Customers Habitually Use Water

Consider this: A strong concern addressed at our public meetings was for the City (LMUD is a separate entity) to deny permits for new construction to slow down the rate of population growth pulling from our water source. With Texas being a property rights state, you cannot allow someone to  sell/buy land, yet deny an owner of the economically viable use of it. The solution must be that we each learn to do more with less water.

It was in September 2022 that our general manager, Earl Foster, had the foresight to initiate 1-day per week irrigation for our service area in an attempt to soften the blow for what he anticipated was going to be a long period of drought leading to the need for habitual water use changes. That same month, in our long-standing column in the Lake Travis View, we published an article, written by our Public Information Liaison, Stephanie Threinen, entitled “Drought Provides Opportunity For Effecting Behavior Change.” An excerpt from the article:

The standard approach to driving change is telling people what to do, but for people to change their behavior consistently, you first have to change their perspective. This takes time and effort. It takes open-minded, constructive conversations between people who think and see things differently and are willing to compromise. Even then, there will be outliers, rebels, nonconformists ― those who refuse to change. And that’s OK. We need them, too, to help prevent complacency and keep things moving forward. From our perspective: just a little effort from each person can make a big difference; consider your water conservation efforts and do what you can to use water wisely.

Lakeway MUD

Native Plants …

Are drought-tolerant, naturally conserving our precious water resources

Provide habitat and food for birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife

Don’t need special pampering or fertilizing

Are natural to their ecosystem

Help us maintain biological biodiversity

Native Plant Society of Texas

Resources for Rebates and Water-Use Guidance

  • Water leaks, unattended hoses, and inefficient irrigation systems are big causes of unnecessary water loss. LMUD customers can utilize their WaterSmart portal for access to detailed information about their household’s water use: track water usage down to the hour, self-identify and resolve leaks, understand where water is being used, compare use to similar households, and set water use alerts. For more information, visit lakewaymud.org/update/watersmart.
  • We encourage local residents to attend the presentations at our next Open House event, held the week of May 20 – 24 at our District office (1097 Lohmans Crossing) with presentations daily at 10am and 2pm. Presenters will cover topics such as tree care, native plants, rainwater capture, available rebates, and more. For more information, visit lakewaymud.org/update/learn-to-be-water-wise-lmud-open-house-may-2024.
  • LCRA offers Lakeway MUD customers residential rebates of 50 percent of the total cost, up to $600 per residential property, for new pool filters and covers as well as irrigation evaluations, retrofitting or replacing irrigation system equipment, aeration, compost & mulch, and soil testing. For information, visit lcra.org/water/watersmart.
  • According to the EPA, nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use (more in warmer climates), totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day. If you have large areas of grass that serve no recreational value, we urge you to start making plans to switch it to a more drought-tolerant alternative such as landscaping utilizing native plants; we find San Antonio’s Plant By Number guide helpful with easy landscaping design options: gardenstylesanantonio.com/plantbynumber.
    • NEW! The Native Plant Society of Texas is another great resource. Through their Native Plant Partnership program, they help assure the availability of native plants at local nurseries across the state as well as plant information at the point of sale. HEB Lakeway is now on their list of native plant distributors! Visit npsot.org for more information.
  • Worried about your HOA? The Texas legislature unanimously passed the “xeriscaping law” in 2013 to assure that Texans living under HOAs can install drought-resistant landscaping or water-conserving natural turf. The 2013 statute has been codified at Texas Property Code section 202.007 available here: statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PR/htm/PR.202.htm.
  • In 2023, Lakeway City Council approved several ordinances related to building and development services, including the use of integrated water management, described as “an integrated approach to managing water which includes landscaping with preferred plants, the green infrastructure approach to rainwater capture and management, and greywater systems.” The City recently published a more comprehensive resource on the Lakeway landscaping ordinance to their website, available at lakeway-tx.gov/2174/Landscaping-Ordinance.

Please contact us with any questions. Thank you for using water wisely!