Update (2/24/16): The GRBA has purchased Texas Water Alliance (TWA) assets in Gonzales and Caldwell counties, acquiring previously TWA-owned Carrizo aquifer groundwater from water permits and leases with 160 landowners covering 40,000 acres of land in northwest Gonzales County. This will yield 15,000 acre-feet of water towards the Mid-Basin Project.
What’s the project?
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA)'s proposed Mid-Basin Project would supply 24.4 billion gallons of water from the Guadalupe River to support growth in central Texas.
What’s at risk?
Water withdrawals upstream in the Guadalupe River Basin in recent years have curtailed freshwater flows to San Antonio Bay, impacting the world's only wild flock of whooping cranes. In March 2013, a federal district court ruled that excessive withdrawls from the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers contributed to the deaths of endangered whooping cranes in the 2008-2009 season by damaging their food supply. In addition to harming the whooping crane population, excessive water withdrawals and inadequate freshwater in the bay have the potential to create economic harm by damaging important fisheries. The bay supports a $162 million per year commercial seafood industry, $24 million worth of recreational fishing, and $29 million worth of wildlife-viewing activity.
Though water withdrawals already harm whooping cranes and other animals that depend on freshwater from the Guadalupe River, the situation could grow worse due to the proposed increase in water withdrawals.
What’s the alternative?
One possible alternative is aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) - the storage of water in an aquifer when water is available, and the recovery of water from the same aquifer during times when it is needed. According to Dr. Calvin Finch, director of the Water Conservation and Technology Center, “ASR is desirable because the storage is underground, and there’s no evaporation. Environmentally, it doesn’t change the surface of the land. With a surface reservoir, those are big issues — evaporation and environmental challenges” ASR is in use in El Paso, San Antonio and Kerrville, but its potential remains largely untapped.
Photo credit: Lance and Erin