Protecting Waters in Texas

This Week in NWF History

Since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to conserve the nation’s wildlife and wild places. As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, we are recognizing important moments in our history that continue to make an impact today.

Did you know conserving water quantity is just as important as preserving water quality?

The levels of the fresh water “environmental flows” in our rivers and streams are critical to wildlife. Maintaining sufficient flows in our rivers helps disperse pollutants and plays a crucial role in the life stages of many fish species and other creatures. The abundant wildlife of estuary systems rely on a healthy mix of salt water and fresh water; when freshwater inflows from rivers and streams reach estuaries — places of transition from land to sea, and from freshwater to saltwater — they must create a balance.

In Texas, and along much of the coastal U.S., the bays and oceans support commercial fisheries, recreational fishing, and wildlife tourism, boosting local economies. The protection of these water resources must consider quantity as much as quality, especially in drier parts of the country.

Aransas Inlet. Photo from Texas Living Waters Project

Texas Living Waters Project

Since its establishment in 2001, the Texas Living Waters Project, a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and Galveston Bay Foundation, has worked to transform the way Texas manages and allocates its waters, stressing the importance of preserving environmental flows to better protect the environment for future generations.

The Texas Living Waters Project strives to:

  • Lilies in the Aransas. Photo from Texas Living Waters Project
    Lilies in the Aransas. Photo from Texas Living Waters Project

    Preserve and protect fresh water flows in Texas rivers and streams and to bays and estuaries

  • Bring sound science to the table to better inform policies and laws
  • Build meaningful relationships with groups and individuals so that diverse stakeholders are represented
  • Encourage water conservation as a key strategy for meeting the water needs of both people and wildlife

A major success came in 2007 when the Project helped pass (Texas) Senate Bill 3, which established a public process (soliciting input from the scientific community and other stakeholders) for determining standards for environmental flows in Texas rivers. The Texas Living Waters Project now works diligently to ensure that environmental concerns have a voice at the table.

Water conservation is an important strategy for the Texas Living Waters Project. A severe drought that lasted from 2011–2015 created public awareness about the need to curb wastefulness and protect water supplies.

Texas Water Conservation Scorecard
Texas Water Conservation Scorecard

To encourage proactive thinking about conservation, the Texas Living Waters Project developed the Texas Water Conservation Scorecard earlier this year to rate water utilities on their conservation efforts. The report offers guidance to the utilities on how to implement best practices to reduce water loss and waste. More than 300 water utilities were rated, and over 50 news stories focusing on the report helped spur more conservation awareness. The Water Conservation Scorecard is a first-of-its-kind digital tool that can serve as a model for other states to evaluate their own utilities.

The Texas Living Waters Project is currently working to ensure that the permitting process for desalination plants on the Texas coast includes strong environmental protections. Earlier this month, project partners provided detailed comments to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on proposed rules for a streamlined approval process and generated public input advocating for appropriate safeguards that will protect Texas bays and estuaries.

Blue crabs, a primary food source for whooping cranes (and a popular meal for people, too), are one of the wildlife species at-risk from desalination plants if discharge and intake facilities are not appropriately sited.

Help NowHelp NWF continue its water conservation work in Texas and elsewhere!