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Will Our Rivers Flow to the Gulf?

If you’ve heard of the “Environmental Flows” or the “Senate Bill 3 process” this is it, and it is extremely important for the future of water in the Hill Country.

A good Texas process is in place to make collaborative regional decisions about the health of our water systems - in order to work, citizens must be involved and the TCEQ must listen. For almost two years, the Guadalupe-San Antonio Stakeholder Committee (also the Colorado-Lavaca Stakeholder Committee), appointed by the State of Texas Environmental Flows Advisory Group, worked to recommend to the TCEQ changes to their rules for environmental flow protections. These recommendations were based upon the balanced perspective of more than 20 Stakeholders representing diverse interests, such as agriculture, manufacturing, municipal, conservation, and river authorities. The TCEQ staff recently made significant revisions to the Stakeholder Committee’s recommendations, which do not reflect the conservative and balanced goals set forth by the Stakeholders. TCEQ is proposing more business as usual permitting and withdrawals. People must speak up by May 14th. TCEQ environmental flows resources.

“Noted conservationist David Langford, former executive vice president of the Texas Wildlife Association, was on the ground floor when the Texas Legislature designed the stakeholder process for consensus-based regional solutions for environmental flows for each river and bay system. He served on the Environmental Flows Advisory Committee which made recommendations for Senate Bill 3, the latest water bill to end all water bills.” Langford believes what the TCEQ is attempting to do is a corruption of SB 3. Read this article that ran in the Corpus Christi Caller Times here.

The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) is one of the best local examples of organized citizen activism. They are citizens working together to take care of the San Marcos River (part of the Guadalupe River basin). In a recent San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) newsletter, citizens are encouraged to send comments to the TCEQ urging more balance. Here’s what they said:

“WILL OUR RIVER FLOW TO THE GULF? As you read in the Sunday Record's opinion column by GBRA's Bill West, a few people in our region are fine with the TCEQ draft rules for future water rights that will most likely be pumped out of our river by GBRA. However, the vast majority of region's bay/basin stakeholders including cities like San Antonio, River Authorities like San Antonio and Nueces (the SA River is part of our Guadalupe basin and the Nueces provides a great deal of our aquifer's recharge) farmers, ranchers, landowners, industries and environmental groups are all very upset that TCEQ has ignored the recommendations of these stakeholders. SMRF was a stakeholder, and we worked hard for two years and spent untold hours "balancing" the needs for new water projects with the need for water in our rivers, to flow to our bays. We used scientific data to set the plans for how much could be withdrawn at what times, and still keep the rivers and bays healthy. We did not follow the exact outline that the science committee first recommended, but instead used that as our guide and asked the same scientists to help us adjust the flow patterns so new water projects could happen without hurting the rivers or bays. All this work was ignored by TCEQ when they made up their new rules, essentially doing the same old thing they've always done granting water rights. So the stakeholders are protesting mightily to TCEQ Commissioners on May 8, in person. If flowing rivers and healthy bays are something you care about (now and in the future) please go to the NWF advocacy website and easily send a letter to the TCEQ Commissioners. You can reword the first sentence to customize the letter, or insert your own comment there (stay civil!) Or you can reword the whole letter. Just please do it ASAP. In short, the TCEQ rules will allow big dams to be built and big diversions to withdraw water at the very worst times, dry times. And the set-asides of water for the bays (like dedicating a small percentage of wastewater flows to the river) recommended strongly by stakeholders were also eliminated from TCEQ staff's draft rules. We have a chance now to reverse that by speaking to TCEQ Commissioners directly, so please comment.”

HCA recently posted a blog by the National Wildlife Federation, that we encourage you to read for more insight and background. NWF serves as a technical resource to numerous groups including HCA, SMRF, and some of the NWF scientists serve on these Stakeholder Committees and the Expert Science Teams appointed by the Stakeholders. Learn from NWF here.

HCA will continue to collect background information, news articles, helpful documents and links on this very important subject. One of our core objectives is to create an informed and engaged citizenry so that regional decisions reflect the desires of the Hill Country community to protect water supply, water quality, heritage ranch lands and the unique quality of life found in Central Texas. Please review our Water Planning resource page and other Water Issue pages.

The Latest News

City Wastewater Discharge May Threaten Clear-running Creeks and Water Wells

Some water experts believe Hill Country clear-running creeks and streams may soon be a thing of the past if cities are permitted to discharge treated wastewater directly into creeks such as Onion Creek. Water wells may also become contaminated. Read More

Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers - Starts April 30

"Keeping Rivers Flowing" is a free three-part webinar series designed to inform interested persons about strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries. Drawing on practical experience from here in Texas and around the world, speakers will discuss innovative approaches for ensuring that rivers, bays and estuaries continue to get the flow needed to protect water quality and support healthy fish and wildlife populations. Learn More

Common Misperceptions Regarding Land and Wildlife Management in Central Texas

There’s a lot of bad information floating around in the Hill Country regarding land management, in addition to a lot of good information. Sometimes it is difficult to sort out the bad from the good. Misinformation can come from a variety of sources – the coffee shop, the feed store, magazine articles, well meaning neighbors and even natural resource professionals. By clarifying some of the common misperceptions, people will be able to make better decisions regarding natural resources. Steve’s writings are timeless. Read more from Steve Nelle and educate your neighbors.

Join HCA at Upcoming Bennett Trust Education Program: Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau

The Bennett Trust will host its first ever land stewardship and education conference April 23-25 in Kerrville. Wyman Meinzer, state photographer of Texas, will deliver the keynote address on the history and legacy of the Edwards Plateau. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit local ranches, vineyards and orchards to learn more about sustainable practices in horticulture, forage production and wildlife management. Learn More

TWDB opens SWIFT for public comment

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has opened their State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) rules making process for public comment. Participation in the rules making process is critical to ensure that the intentions of the State Legislature are carried out in the long-term administration of the State’s SWIFT funds. The HCA has submitted a list of recommendations to the TWDB that will help ensure spring and stream-flow sustainability in the Hill Country.

PEC Candidate Forum April 24th in Johnson City

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) is hosting a candidates forum for two board of director seats up for election this year. The meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at PEC Headquarters, 201 S. Ave. F in Johnson City. The event will also include discussion of a ballot referendum on whether to switch to single-member district elections for board directors. Learn more about the candidates from the San Marcos Mercury. Learn more about the process and forum from the PEC.

Sky Lewey, HCA Board Member receives Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Award

Sky has been selected to receive a “Lone Star Land Steward Award” for her work in education and outreach for the Nueces River Authority in Uvalde County. “Sky Lewey is a conservation educator with extraordinary leadership and dedication. A key figure in the efforts to restore healthy riparian function to the Nueces River Basin and beyond.” David Langford, HCA Advisor, and his wife Myrna are also receiving an award for their landowner cooperative in Kendall County. Congratulations HCA leaders! Read more from TPWD.

To Deal With Drought, Texas Needs to Manage Growth

“With the exception of the lower Rio Grande Valley and small parts of Far West Texas, much of the state has received less than 50 percent of normal rainfall,” reads TWDB’s most recent report. “This doesn’t bode well for the next six months. A dry winter generally portends a dry spring and summer.” Read more from Nextcity.org.

Amazing rally for Bracken Bat Cave

Bat Conservation International has inspired major support to prevent intense development of 1500 acres adjacent to Bracken Cave from the City of San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro, City Councilman Ron Nirenberg, The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and others. Find out more about recent negotiations to save the cave and learn about upcoming opportunities to personally visit Bracken Bat Cave and see the bats take flight.

The Great Grassland Myth of the Texas Hill Country

How many times have you heard that the Hill Country was once a great vast grassland with only a modest covering of trees and brush? Although this longstanding myth is deeply ingrained and embraced by many government agencies, biologists, landowners and professionals, it is false and misleading. Learn what the Hill Country was really like prior to 1860 from eye-witness accounts, and why it is important to understand the past. Read and share from Steve Nelle.

Georgetown moves to limit residential lawns and landscaping to save water

“The rules require residential developers to use only drought-resistant plants from a list provided by the city. St. Augustine grass, which tends to be very thirsty, can only be planted in areas where there is 10 inches of topsoil and less than 6 hours of full sunlight per day.” Read more from the American Statesman (subscription required). Learn more about St. Augustine and the impact lawn watering has on our regional water supply from Native American Seed here. KXAN reports “more buyers want homes with smaller yards and less grass to water.” View video here.

The High Cost of San Antonio’s North-South Water Divide

The fact is the city’s sprawling suburbs, gated communities and ex-urban neighborhoods are addicted to lawn and landscape watering. SAWS officials say about one-third of all the water we use in the hot summer months is pumped to keep grass alive. Not humans, but grass. Learn More

TWDB launches Interactive State Water Plan Website

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has developed a new Interactive 2012 State Water Plan webpage that will let water users statewide take an up-close look at data in the 2012 State Water Plan and how our water needs will change over time. This data will arm communities with important information as they plan for projects to submit for State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT) funding. Learn More

A more “Night Skies” friendly community

It started when the Kimble County Commissioners Court, followed by the City Council, passed resolutions supporting voluntary efforts to protect the Night Skies. This paralleled actions being taken in other Hill Country communities to preserve the awe-inspiring Night Skies and the enjoyment that comes with stargazing, including its attraction for visitors. Read more from the Junction Eagle.

More News

Upcoming Events


April 22 - Earth Day! - Earth Day Events

April 22 in Austin - Texas Water Journal Forum focusing on current challenges to rural and urban water conservation - Details

April 23-25 in Kerrville - Bennett Trust Educational Program: "Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau" - Details

April 23-27 - 2014 Hill Country Nature Quest - Tour the Hill Country River Region and learn about native plants, birds, butterflies and wildlife - Details

April 25 in Austin - Kent Butler Summit, “Faucets, Toilets, and Automobiles: Balancing Growth and Sustainability in the Barton Springs Aquifer Region” - Details

April 25-27 in Fredericksburg - 4th Annual Wings over the Hills Nature Festival - Details

April 26 in Austin - Native Plant Spring Symposium - Hosted by The Native Plant Society of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Details

April 28 in Kerrville - Native Bees of Texas - A meeting of the Hill Country Master Naturalist - Free and open to the public - Details

April 30 - Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers - Free three-part webinar series on strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries - Details


May 3 in Bandera - 13th Annual Medina River Cleanup - Details

May 6 in Medina - Fruit Tree Management Workshop - Hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

May 7 in San Antonio - Public Health and the Built Environment - Healthy Communities by Design - Details

May 8 in San Antonio - Urban Wildlife Management Workshop - Details

May 9 in Boerne - Monarch Workshop: Monarch Biology, Ecology & Monarch Larval Monitoring Project Training - Hosted by the Cibolo Nature Center - Details

May 9 in Stonewall - 2014 New Landowner Series: Forage Production, Livestock Production and Handling, Crop Production - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

May 10 in Wimberley - Grand Opening of the newly improved Jacob's Well Natural Area - Details

May 12 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Hill Country University Center - Details

May 13 in Kerrville - Texas Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop – Upper Guadalupe River - Details

May 13 in Llano - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 14 in Marble Falls - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 16 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Details

May 16 in Austin - Exploring Conservation Design in Central Texas with Randall Arendt - Details

May 19 in Austin - 2014 Texas Water Summit: Securing our Economic Future - Presented by The Acadamy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas Details

May 28-30 in San Antonio - Southwest Stream Restoration Conference - Details

See more upcoming events

Photo Contest

Photo contest begins March 1st!

Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape

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