Stories in Texas

Texas Water Program

Securing Texas’ water future.

Turquoise waters flow and fall over stacked rocks surrounded by greenery.
FRESHWATER FLOWS The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 200 miles of rivers and streams in Texas for people and nature. © Ian Shive

Water is the lifeblood of our state—and the key to healthy people, lands and wildlife. The Nature Conservancy in Texas has worked to protect and preserve the state’s freshwater ecosystems and water resources since our establishment in 1964. As Texas grows and prospers, securing our water future remains a critical priority for sustaining the health and resilience of our state.

In the Balance: The Future of Texas Water (5:00) As Texas grows and prospers, securing our water future remains a critical priority for sustaining the health and resilience of our state. Because much of Texas’ water use is dedicated to agriculture, landowners are among our biggest allies in finding solutions to our water woes.

In the coming years, a rapidly rising population and expanding urbanization will place undue stress on our water resources. Flow in nearly 75% of Texas rivers and water levels in all our major aquifers is declining. According to our State Water Plan, if no action is taken, we’ll be facing a statewide water shortage equivalent to an estimated $151 billion in annual economic losses by 2070. 

Moreover, with 60% of our state water consumption currently supporting Texas’ leading farming, ranching and agricultural industries, only 40% remains to produce energy, service our growing cities and sustain the environment’s natural balance. At the same time, more frequent and severe drought periods and catastrophic flooding add even more uncertainty to the future of Texas’ water resources.

Three people sit on a dock fishing on a turquoise river lined with trees.
Water for the future Protecting and preserving our freshwater sources help ensure that water continues to flow for future generations. © Christopher Zebo

Conserving Healthy Lands and Waters

As a landowner in Texas, we understand how to be good stewards of our natural landscapes. Since 1964, TNC Texas has protected nearly 200 river miles through land conservation efforts. Our efforts benefit nearly a dozen different waterways around the state, including the Devils, Blanco, Trinity, Brazos, Frio, Nueces, Sabinal, Llano, San Saba and Pedernales rivers; Barton, Independence and Love creeks and Caddo Lake. Over the past 30 years, TNC has established projects on nearly every major river in Texas and five major springs.

Fast-flowing water in the Pedernales River, Texas with trees on one bank and sand and grassy vegetation on the other.
ADAPTING AS TEXAS GROWS Texas sees cycles of severe drought and catastrophic storms—studying their impacts on freshwater flows can help us adapt to a changing climate. © Ryan Smith

In addition, our network of 37 Texas nature preserves, representing 100,000 acres, serves as a field lab for developing best practices for water management and land protection alongside partners, landowners, conservation organizations, businesses and government agencies across the state. Safeguarding and stewarding the natural landscapes that support and safeguard our aquifers and rivers can help ensure that water continues to flow for the benefit of all—now and well into the future.

Three colorful fish with orange, yellow, or blue stripes sit in a clear sample container of water.
SUPPORTING SPECIES Our freshwater sources sustain the state's unique aquatic species, like the Medina roundnose minnow, which can be found at TNC's Love Creek Preserve. © Ryan Smith

Fast Facts: Texas Water

  • Blue illustrated icon of a flowing river and a tree.


    miles of rivers and streams across the state

  • Blue illustrated icon of a water drop.


    aquifers that supply ~60% of our annual water usage

  • Blue illustrated icon of water waves.


    river basins throughout the state

  • Blue illustrated icon of a fish.


    major bays and estuaries along the Texas Gulf Coast

Managing Water for the Future 

As we face a changing water landscape, TNC is working to promote informed and sustainable water management by:

  • Advancing water research and policy solutions. What we do to land and water above ground impacts the quality and quantity of the water below—and all of those factors critically affect the health of our communities and the environment. Increasing decision makers’ understanding of these complex connections informs essential water protection and management efforts at local, regional and state levels.
  • Strengthening best groundwater management practices. We collaborate with water resource managers across the state to fill in gaps in the science and research around groundwater and surface water dynamics. By better understanding their interaction, we can help inform decision makers about how today’s water management decisions might impact the environment in the future.
  • Allocating water for the environment. 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 aquatic ecosystems and the fish wildlife that depend on them. Ensuring that portions of the state’s aquifers and rivers are protected and reserved for environmental uses ensures that our ecosystems—and the fish and wildlife that depend on them—can survive and thrive.
  • Rethinking dam operations to restore river flows. In Big Cypress Bayou in northeast Texas, TNC is working to modify existing dam operations to restore the health of the surrounding ecosystem and recover the environmental and social benefits that have been compromised by dam infrastructure.
A woman and a man each hold the ends of a small net being dragged through a creek to conduct aquatic species surveys.
Surveying for Species Freshwater species surveys conducted by TNC staff help serve as an indicator of water quality in local creeks and streams. © Kenny Braun
× A woman and a man each hold the ends of a small net being dragged through a creek to conduct aquatic species surveys.
A man in a hat stands in a clear river lined with trees holding a tool to measure flow speed.
Freshwater Research By performing hydrological research and collecting data at water sources around the state, we can better understand their behavior, function and ability to support species. © Kenny Braun
× A man in a hat stands in a clear river lined with trees holding a tool to measure flow speed.

Using Market Approaches to Conserve Water

Maintaining Texas’ unique water resources and meeting the state’s future water demand isn’t possible if we continue to draw down finite water resources at the rate we are now—nor without addressing the impacts of climate change on the natural resources of our state. Innovative, market-based tools like environmental water transactions, water funds and incentive programs for sustainable agricultural practices create lasting conservation benefits in light of our growing water challenges:

Market Approaches

Texas Water Markets Review