Surface water policies are developed on a state-wide basis by the Texas Legislature and on a local basis by regional and local governments and agencies. The Colorado River flows from West Texas, through Austin, and down to the Gulf of Mexico where it provides freshwater inflows to Matagorda Bay. Surface water is owned by the State and is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The TCEQ allocates surface waters to users through a system of “water rights”. Users of water from surface water sources must hold a water right issued by the TCEQ.
Environmental Flows for the Colorado River and Matagorda Bay:
Environmental flows policies for the state were established by the Texas Legislature in 2006 and are administered by TCEQ. Environmental flow standards for Texas rivers were developed by a program that established stakeholder groups for the major river basins. The stakeholder groups researched and recommended environmental flow standards to the TCEQ. The Colorado Lavaca Basin and Bay Area Stakeholder Committee was appointed by the legislature. We are very fortunate to have Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, and Myron Hess of the National Wildlife Federation serving as environmental stakeholders representing our interests. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also advises the committee. As our concerns regarding the groundwater–surface water relationship continue to reveal the potential impact on the Colorado River, this group will be kept informed and will likely take an interest in the implications.
Having followed the Environmental Flows legislative process since 2006, Environmental Stewardship is committed to helping Andy and Myron as they represent our concerns to this committee. Executive Director Steve Box is Mr. Sansom’s alternate to the committee.
Lower Colorado River Authority:
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) holds and manages many of the water rights in the Colorado River basin. LCRA is also responsible to manage the Highlands Lake system through its TCEQ approved Water Management Plan. In the recent past, the LCRA established a stakeholder advisor committee to review and recommend changes to the water management plan. The National Wildlife Federation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Lone Star Sierra Club were environmental representatives on the committee. Steve Box, executive director of Environmental Stewardship served as Myron Hess’ alternate on the committee.
Bastrop County Watershed Protection Initiative:
Environmental Stewardship initiated a Watershed Protection Initiative to bring the various planning activities into focus for Bastrop and surrounding counties. The goal of this initiative is to advocate for a watershed protection plan to help our counties avoid the water impairments experienced by up-river counties. The project is based on the Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) process that is recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as the preferred method for protecting against the impacts of non-point source pollution. The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) are resource partners for the Bastrop County Watershed Protection Initiative. With the help of the LCRA we have developed a watershed map of Bastrop County that has been incorporated into a table-top display to promote the program. Unfortunately, aggressive groundwater marketers have threatened both the surface and groundwater of the region and this initiative is no longer being pursued.