Cedar Park officials are planning to adopt an update for both the city’s Drought Contingency and Water Emergency Plan as well as its Water Conservation Plan.

Director of Public Works and Utilities Eric Rauschuber said the updated plans will outline additional conservation trigger levels and new approaches to water conservation. Both of the plans were last updated in 2019, officials said.

A closer look

There are two drought contingency plans that guide the city of Cedar Park: the Lower Colorado River Authority’s plan as well as the city’s.

Utility Programs Manager Nanette McCartan said the LCRA plan outlines the various stages and triggers based on the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan. She said the city’s plan outlines the same things; however, it also offers a methodology on how to reduce usage.

The state requires all public water suppliers to have a drought contingency plan, which then has to be updated every five years, McCartan said. She said the LCRA adopted a new drought contingency plan in March.

The new LCRA plan includes new stage triggers and updated reduction goals. McCartan said the city is required to incorporate those changes into its plan as well to maintain continuity with LCRA’s plan.

The update

Rauschuber said this update is the most conservative proposal ever recommended by city staff and the LCRA.

According to city documents, the updated plan includes triggers for the entry and exit of stages, which are based on the combined storage levels of lakes Buchanan and Travis, as well as stage reduction goals recently adopted by the LCRA.

McCartan said changes to stages are as follows:
  • Stage 1: This stage was voluntary twice-per-week watering. It is now permanent, allowing no more than twice-per-week watering.
  • Stage 2: The LCRA reduced the trigger to enter Stage 2 from 1.4 million acre-feet to 1.1 million. This stage still remains at a twice-per-week watering schedule but with enhanced water conservation communicating.
  • Stage 3: The trigger to enter this stage remains under 900,000 acre-feet. However, the trigger in this stage is independent of lake volumes and serves as an early indicator that a dryer and prolonged weather pattern is expected, and the city should increase conservation efforts prior to the 900,000 acre-foot threshold. Stage 3 enacts a once-per-week watering schedule.
  • Stage 4: This is a new, interim stage that allows a more gradual reduction before the city hits the “no watering” stage. It is once-per-week watering at more reduced hours.
  • Stage 5: This stage is the city’s current Stage 4 and is enacted when the lake levels drop below 600,000 acre-feet. It is a “no watering” stage.
The city also added an emergency stage to its Drought Contingency and Water Emergency Plan, McCartan said. This stage is independent of the lake levels and the LCRA’s plan. She said emergency situations, such as the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority pipeline repair or the Parmer Lane brush fire, could trigger this stage. It is also a “no watering” stage.

However, both “no watering” stages do allow hand watering of foundations, trees and vegetable gardens, McCartan said.

The LCRA also adopted stage exit triggers, which means lake levels have to recover to a higher level before cities can exit the stage, McCartan said. For example, when lake levels fall below 900,000 acre-feet, the city would move into Stage 3, and when they increase to 1.1 million acre-feet, the city would exit Stage 3.

Officials said this new update does not change the fact that the city is in Stage 2 of its drought contingency plan.

Another change

City officials are also updating the city’s water conservation plan, which aims to ensure water use efficiency in the city.

The updated water conservation plan includes five- and 10-year conservation goals, and best management practices to meet those goals, officials said.

McCartan said the average residential water usage per resident between 2019-23 was 94 gallons per capita per day, or GCPD. The updated plan includes the following goals for the next 10 years:
  • The five-year goal is to reduce the usage per resident to 93.1 GCPD by 2029. This would save the city 2.7 million gallons of water per month.
  • The 10-year goal is to reduce usage to 92.2 GCPD by 2034, which would save 2.9 million gallons of water per month.
A few best management practices outlined in the updated plan include watering no more than twice per week, using leak detection methods, moving forward with water reuse projects, encouraging residents to use the customer usage portal and continuing compliance control.

What happens next?

Cedar Park City Council is scheduled to take a vote on these two updated plans during its June 27 meeting.