One August morning in 1915, Aaron Simon, a Jew who had immigrated to the United States at the turn of the century to flee the pogroms and deprivations of Czarist Russia, led a motorcade from Bay City to Bastrop to address the Colorado River Improvement Association.
The Matagorda County civic leader sought a particular kind of protection: He wanted to make sure enough water would come down the river to feed, but not flood, the burgeoning rice industry on the coastal plain.
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The Lower Colorado River Authority has been given special permission from the state environmental agency to withhold water releases from the Highland Lakes for downriver rice farmers if the combined storage of Lakes Travis and Buchanan, the chief reservoirs for Central Texas, is less than 850,000 acre-feet on March 1. Currently, the combined storage is 828,000 acre-feet, or 41 percent of capacity. An acre-foot is roughly equal to the amount of water used by three average Austin households in a year.
Focus on Texas resources
Asher Price has covered environmental and energy issues in Central Texas for six years, including examinations of long-term water supplies and the consequences, science and politics of the drought.