Stories in Texas

Conservation Partnerships

Working with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders to feed a growing population while ensuring clean, abundant water supplies and healthy lands.

A man wearing a cowboy hat rides a white horse, herding a group of cattle through a grassy pasture.
BETTER TOGETHER We work with landowners, ranchers and farmers across the Lone Star State to get conservation done. © Carlton Ward Jr.

With more than 129 million acres of agricultural land, Texas is home to the greatest number of farms and ranches in the nation. In the Lone Star State, agriculture production accounts for more than 60% of all freshwater consumed. However, as Texas loses farmland faster than any other state, we’re also facing growing issues related to water scarcity. As the effects of climate change continue to mount—from more severe periods of drought to more frequent flooding—Texas is feeling the impacts where they hurt most: the quantity and quality of our water supplies. To ensure a resilient future, we’re collaborating with agricultural producers and landowners to address these challenges before it’s too late.

Lone Star Agriculture

  • Three water droplets.


    There are nearly 250,000 farms and ranches in Texas.

  • Trees protected by a surrounding fence.


    In 2020, animal sales contributed over $14 billion to Texas' economy

  • A water droplet with a plus and minus sign indicating water quality


    In 2020, crop sales contributed over $6 billion to Texas' economy

Farmers and ranchers are vital to our way of life and heritage in Texas. The state relies on the multibillion-dollar agriculture industry not only for economic success, but also for the conservation of our iconic landscapes and watersheds by preventing development—but the two are not mutually exclusive. Agriculture and conservation don’t have to be pitted against one another. In Texas, we can protect water for people and nature alike by working with landowners, decision-makers and partners across the Lone Star State.

In the Balance: The Future of Texas Water (5:00) As Texas grows, securing our water future remains a critical priority for sustaining the health and resilience of our state. TNC and partners are collaborating with agricultural communities, providing incentives in exchange for access to water rights and management decisions during times of drought.

For decades, TNC has worked closely with this dedicated group of Texans to implement and promote agricultural practices that support healthy lands and waters through science-driven strategies. Many heritage ranchers already drive scalable solutions to environmental challenges through improved management and production practices, protecting the lands and waters they depend upon and love. To further address increasing demands for food and water, we’re developing statewide partnerships that build on the knowledge of local experts and model how sustainable agricultural practices can successfully meet Texas’ most pressing needs.

Together, we can conserve water and other key natural resources in Texas by making agriculture more efficient, productive and economically sustainable in key parts of the state. 

A field of brown crops in rows.
PRACTICAL AND COST-EFFECTIVE These practices can help protect the quantity and quality of our water supplies. © Fauna Creative

Diving Deeper into Our Partnerships

Environmental Water Transactions: San Saba River

When Texas’ water rights system was initially created, it granted the use of water without recognizing environmental water needs. Over time, this left little to no water to support our watersheds and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. Environmental water markets and water transactions create incentives for conservation and help redistribute conserved water to ensure enough for all of us. 

Innovative work like this is touching down in places like Menard County, where the San Saba River meanders before meeting the Colorado River. Here, TNC works with local ranchers in several ways. As water right holders, the landowners have established an agreement with TNC so that in periods when river flow is below average, they refrain from diverting water from the San Saba to keep things flowing.

A river meanders through dense green brush and trees.
COLLECTING KEY DATA TNC Texas staff are able to review data from a sensor connected to a well on the rancher's property to better understand how groundwater interacts with the San Saba River. © Kenny Braun

TNC staff also collect data on their land to better understand the connection between the river and underlying aquifers. With this information, water managers and policymakers will be able to make more effective decisions, protecting the river in times when water is needed most. Finally, we’re collaborating with these ranchers to develop rotational grazing plans and implement agricultural technologies to improve soil health and contribute to more clean and abundant water.

Eight black cows eat from a trough.
RANCHING DONE RIGHT Sustainable practices such as roational grazing can lead to more efficient ranching operations. © Kenny Braun
A man in a hat kneels in a field of tall, brown grass examining its growth.
UNDER COVER Planting cover crops when fields would normally lay fallow can create more productive cash crop yields. © Kenny Braun

Sustainable Agriculture Practices: Lavon Lake Watershed

The Lavon Lake watershed stretches over 492,000 acres across four North Texas counties. With five major tributaries flowing into the lake, it serves as a vital natural resource for the area, providing everything from municipal water supplies and flood control to habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities. Over 1.6 million North Texans rely on Lavon Lake as their primary source of drinking water. Although most of the watershed is made up of farms and ranches, the southwestern portion of the watershed is one of the most rapidly developing areas in the nation. Agriculture remains a vital part of the local economy, but the economic landscape in the watershed is changing as land uses continue to shift.

The waters of a blue lake ripple against a distant shore covered in trees with a few buildings sprinkled in.
Lavon Lake The land surrounding this reservoir supports a variety of agricultural, industrial and other uses. © Trong Nguyen Photography

TNC is currently working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and others to provide additional cost-share funding and support for the implementation of conservation practices on farms and ranches in the Lavon Lake Watershed. Ultimately, by applying these practices, we aim to improve water quality and quantity for the region.

Conservation Practices

Learn More

Contact Kyle Garmany at Kyle.Garmany@TNC.ORG to find out more about our agriculture partnerships and sustainable practices.