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The Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS) hosted a conference entitled Community and Economic Benefits of Texas Rivers, Springs and Bays in April 2002 in Austin, Texas. The conference was designed to explore the benefits of flowing freshwater in our state and to examine the legal and policy framework for protecting these flows.
About 200 people participated in the day’s forum. Attendees included representatives of 11 municipalities – including two mayors, seven state and three federal agencies, three universities, three river authorities, eight groundwater conservation districts, three regional water planning groups, over 30 outdoor activities and/or conservation oriented organizations, and the general public. The diversity of attendees exemplifies how important this issue is to the people of Texas.
Texas has made many advances in water planning and water management over the last few years. Nevertheless, the issues of how to make sure Texas rivers and streams retain sufficient natural flows, how to protect valuable springs from being dried up by over-pumping of groundwater, and how to ensure that our bays and estuaries receive sufficient freshwater inflows are still largely unresolved. The goal of this conference was to help the participants gain a better understanding and a wider perspective on the importance and benefits of these flows.
The conference agenda included two discussion sessions in the morning which focused on a variety of benefits of instream flows, spring flows and freshwater inflows to the bays and estuaries. In the afternoon, a distinguished panel discussed current Texas law and policy framework for protecting freshwater flows. They also explored what, if any, changes might be needed in this framework, and the prospects for change in the next few years.