Texas Groundwater Basics

Groundwater is a precious resource in Texas. According to the Texas Water Development Board, water from aquifers or groundwater provides over 55% of the state’s water supply. A vast majority of the groundwater (nearly 80%) is used to irrigate crops. Cities such as San Antonio, El Paso, Houston and Amarillo also depend, to varying degrees, on groundwater to supply homes, businesses and industries. Many Texas residents in unincorporated areas also rely on groundwater from individual wells.

Additionally, aquifers support springs that provide the majority of the flows to our most iconic rivers, including the Guadalupe, San Marcos, Frio, Nueces and Llano, and sustain Barton Springs Pool and other beloved Texas swimming holes. Many of these springs are also home to unique and often endangered animals and plants.

Balmorhea State Park. Spring-fed Pool.  Photo by Rob McCorkle, TPWD

Balmorhea State Park. Spring-fed Pool
Photo by Rob McCorkle, TPWD

As pressure on our state’s limited water resource continues to grow, Texas must ensure that our groundwater resources are managed sustainably in order to protect these aquifers and critical spring flows as well as the aquatic species that depend on them for their survival. In some parts of the state, groundwater is being used much more quickly than it is being replenished. For example, the massive Ogallala Aquifer in the Texas Panhandle, which provides the majority of groundwater supplies in Texas, is being pumped at a rate six times greater than the recharge rate.

Comanche Springs Pool near Ft. Stocketon in 1938 Source: Image captured from rootsweb.org

Comanche Springs Pool near Ft. Stockton in 1938
Image captured from rootsweb.org

In many places in Texas, groundwater resources and the springs they feed have been depleted. Comanche Springs in Fort Stockton, once a critical watering hole for West Texas travelers and a major tourist destination, ceased to flow in the 1960s due to heavy groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation above the springs. It currently flows only intermittently at low levels during the non-irrigation season. It is imperative that moving forward, we manage these precious resources more sustainably.

Heavy pumping from Edwards-Trinity Aquifer for irrigation caused Comanche Springs flow to decline after 1947

Comanche Springs and Pool depleted as a result of pumping