Edwards Aquifer Protection
The Edwards Aquifer: Water for Life
The Edwards Aquifer is one of the most important water resources in Texas. One of the largest, most prolific artesian aquifers in the world, it serves as the primary source of drinking water for nearly two million Central Texans, including the entire city of San Antonio—Texas’ second largest city—and much of the surrounding Hill Country. Its waters feed springs, rivers and lakes and sustain diverse plant and animal life, including rare and endangered species. The aquifer supports agricultural, industrial and recreational activities that not only sustain Texas’ economy, but also contributes immeasurably to the culture and heritage of the Lone Star State.
The Edwards Aquifer stretches beneath 12 Texas counties and the land above it is broken into four primary regions. Two of those regions—the recharge and contributing zones—replenish the aquifer through rainwater, which seeps through fissures, cracks and sinkholes in the porous limestone that dominates the region.
One of the best ways to protect this precious natural resource is to protect the quality of water flowing into the aquifer and conserve the land under which it sits. The Nature Conservancy’s primary tool in that effort is water funds, a multi-pronged strategy that protects green space in and around local communities and ensures the water flowing into underground aquifers is free from pollutants. The Conservancy has worked with more than 100 partners to establish water funds in countries around the world; in Texas, Austin and San Antonio have some of the oldest water funds around. In fact, San Antonio's Edwards Aquifer Protection Program is one of the largest in the world.
Since the early 1990s, The Conservancy has helped five communities across Central Texas—accounting for more than 3 million people— make nearly $1 billion in citizen-authorized investments to help protect the Edwards Aquifer. Those investments have conserved nearly 120,000 acres of valuable green space atop the aquifer and helped improve water quality by avoiding increases in bacteria, lead and nitrogen.