Who doesn’t love a cool, clear meandering Texas river? The names of some of our mightiest evoke our strong Texas heritage and a collective love for the great outdoors: the Devils, Brazos, Frio, Nueces and Sabinal. Over the past 30 years, The Nature Conservancy has established projects on nearly every major river in Texas, and has protected more than 200 miles of stream and river habitat as well as five of Texas’ most important springs. We take the best ideas the world has to offer and apply them on the ground with local communities, corporations and landowners. Check out our progress in 2012:
Dr Pepper Snapple Group, one of the leading beverage companies in North America, pledged $1 million over the next four years to The Nature Conservancy, to help restore and protect the Trinity and Brazos rivers, the Texas Gulf Coast and the Edwards Aquifer. Houston, San Antonio and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex will all benefit.
We established the Brazos River Conservation Corridor, which is part of a 700,000-acre expanse of forests, grasslands, wetlands, creeks and rivers crucial to the health of the Brazos River. The Brazos is a vital source of drinking water source for the Greater Houston area, which is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country. Communities to the southwest of Houston—in anticipation of future growth—have already made plans to expand their use of the Brazos as a water source. Mindful of this need and other factors, our 2013 freshwater conservation priorities include protecting and managing thousands of additional acres along the Brazos River, in order to buffer the river and protect forest habitat. Our priorities will also create important educational, outreach and research opportunities that will include the public in area conservation.
Central Texas Water Funds have proven to be an important strategy in our toolbox; land conservation within major watersheds and aquifers can profoundly impact the quantity and quality of freshwater, so protecting it is crucial. Water funds do just that—they fund projects that directly impact the supply and quality of water, usually for urban areas. We’ve made measurable progress with this tool, and have helped protect more than 100,000 acres of critical groundwater lands in San Antonio in 2012, resulting in the conservation of 21 percent of the land within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. For more than a decade, we have also negotiated water protection arrangements in Austin, San Antonio and surrounding counties.
Last winter, we completed a year’s worth of work with the Travis County Parks Department that resulted in success—the purchase of 800 acres in the Texas Hill Country. The tract of land, which was part of Reimers Ranch, will add 1.5 miles of public access to the Pedernales riverfront and adjoin 3,500 acres of conservation land west of Austin. The acreage runs adjacent to the iconic Hamilton Pool.
All of this adds up to more than $600 million in practical water protection.
We also began to work this year on a Texas Aquifer Scorecard, which will rate the condition, management and policies of the Edwards and other aquifers. This information will be used to inform and improve decisions that impact the long-term health of our aquifers