Abstract: Opening Plenary Session  2:00 pm (BACK)

Opportunities for Protecting and Restoring Environmental Flows and Water Levels in Texas

Kevin Mayes
Texas Parks & Wildlife
San Marcos, TX

Recent periods of drought have highlighted the need to better address environmental flow shortages throughout Texas. For example, zero flow conditions in the upper Brazos River led to rescue actions for two imperiled prairie cyprinids, low spring flows in Comal Springs triggered contingency actions for several species of concern, and a coast-wide red tide event threatened commercial and recreational fisheries. Further, the Texas population is expected to nearly double to 50 million by 2060. Future increased demands for water combined with shifting patterns of water use, changing hydrologic patterns, and a water rights permitting system that has not always recognized environmental water needs may increase the frequency, duration and extent of low flow conditions and further threaten fish and wildlife resources. Senate Bill 3 (2007) established a stakeholder-driven process for setting environmental flow standards in Texas rivers and streams. Stakeholder committees also identified strategies for securing water to meet flow standards. Although strategies were identified, they lacked plans for implementation and currently have no funding mechanisms in place. In addition, efforts outside of the Texas environmental flows process (e.g., Cypress Basin/Caddo Lake Environmental Flows Project) are ongoing and have been effective in restoring environmental flows and water levels.  These efforts and strategies will be reviewed in context of challenges and opportunities for protection and restoration of environmental flows and water levels in Texas aquatic systems.