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Harris County Passes Bylaws for Community Task Force to Create a More Resilient Future

Listen below as Texas Living Waters' Danielle Goshen discusses the reconstituted Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force with two of the architects of the Harris Thrives Resolution: Iris Gonzalez, Director of CEER, the Coalition for Environment, Equity and Resilience, and Jordan Macha, Executive Director of Bayou City Waterkeeper. Iris Gonzalez, Director of CEER, the Coalition for Environment, Equity and Resilience Jordan Macha, Executive Director of Bayou City Waterkeeper Danielle Goshen, Water Policy & Outreach Specialist, Galveston Bay Foundation On August 11, 2020, Harris County Commissioners approved bylaws to reconstitute the Harris County Flood Control District Task Force as the Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force (CFRTF). The previous task force, in place since 1972, was criticized for...

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Citizens Advisory Committees: A Rare Opportunity for Texans to Help Shape Pre-Disaster Flood Mitigation

In a rush? Listen to a 90-second audio summary of this article read by the author herself. Texans have a tangible opportunity to shape how their communities prepare for future heavy rain and flooding. It’s buried in a maze of bureaucratic language and comes with some unknowns, but it’s there and worth your time—especially if you live in a vulnerable area. This opportunity is called Citizen Advisory Committees, or CACs.  Texas has received an influx of nearly 4.3 billion dollars in the form of Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds set aside for flood mitigation projects in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, as well as 2015 and 2016 floods in Texas. These funds...

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Lockdown Relief and Reflections at Gorman Falls

As part of our ongoing effort to capture the many dimensions of Texan waterscapes, Ellen Larson, an Austin-area high school student and a Summer 2020 Texas Living Waters volunteer, reflects on the beauty and precarity of our favorite summer escapes: As we head into a late Texas summer, sweltering heat coupled with restlessness in our homes has made venturing into the outdoors necessary but somewhat miserable. During this time my family has turned to one thing: Texas parks and their water. The Spicewood Springs Trail in Colorado Bend State Park is filled with inviting swimming spots. Photo: Ellen Larson, 2020. It’s become a tradition every Friday over the past few months for my family and I...

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The Top 7 Water Utilities in Texas: What They’re Doing Right

The recently-released 2020 Texas Water Conservation Scorecard provides an extraordinarily detailed analysis of water conservation efforts at over 350 Texas water utilities. The only effort of its kind in Texas, the Scorecard evaluates each utility on a range of criteria including compliance with conservation planning and reporting requirements, its record on water loss and meeting targets for water use reduction, outdoor watering limits, and rate-based incentives for efficient use of water. Medium to large utilities were evaluated on 10 criteria and could earn up to 100 points on the scorecard. Smaller utilities were evaluated on 6 criteria and could earn up to 55 points. While a comparison with the 2016 Scorecard shows mixed progress...

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Planning for Our State’s Water Future in the Midst of a Pandemic – You Have a Unique Opportunity for Your Voice to Be Heard!

By Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair, Sierra Club - Lone Star Chapter Planning for the future is always a challenge – even more so in the midst of a pandemic. Texans currently are coping with the uncertainties of the Covid-19 crisis – financial hardships, continuing hospitalizations and deaths, the impacts of “reopening” the economy while the virus spreads – focused on the next several months, not looking 50 years ahead. However, the Covid-19 crisis may be a relatively short-term period in history, albeit one with profound impacts for years to come. On the other hand, Texas faces numerous ongoing and recurring challenges. For example, our state has had devastating droughts in the past and inevitably...

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Supreme Court Makes Ripples with Indirect Discharge Case Under the Clean Water Act

By Danielle Goshen, Water Policy and Outreach Specialist, Galveston Bay Foundation Not too long ago in our Nation’s history, waterways across the United States were in critical condition. Mounting environmental consciousness in the late 1960’s coupled with catastrophic events, such as the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire, led to major amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. These amendments, made in 1972, are now referred to as the Clean Water Act (CWA). Congress’s intent in creating the CWA was an unambiguous response to the environmental concerns of the day -- to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” To make the importance of this clear, Congress even...

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Big Opportunities Lie Ahead for Green Infrastructure in Texas

By Danielle Goshen, Water Policy and Outreach Specialist, Galveston Bay Foundation Green infrastructure and nature-based solutions are essential to creating flood resilient communities in Texas. Traditional gray infrastructure techniques such as dams, levees, and channels, capture water and push it downstream. On the other hand, green infrastructure and nature-based solutions are effective flood mitigation tools that capture water at the source, and allow the water to infiltrate into the ground. This reduces runoff and strain on traditional flood infrastructure during flooding events. Examples of green and nature-based flood mitigation solutions include: open space preservation, bank stabilization and natural erosion control, wetland restoration, permeable pavement, and bioswales, and others. Importantly, when not serving flooding mitigation purposes, green...

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Big Thicket_Photo by Charles Kruvand

State and Regional Flood Planning: The Future of Flood Resilience in Texas

By Teal Harrison, Outreach Manager, National Wildlife Federation  Starting in 2020, Texas stakeholders will have the opportunity to determine the best flood mitigation strategies for their region through a process called “flood planning.” Regional Flood Planning Groups (RFPG) will lead this effort, as prescribed by Senate Bill 8 which was passed by Texas Legislature in 2019. Flood planning regions will correspond with 15 major Texas rivers and coastal basins delineated by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Based on the current draft rules, each RFPG will be composed of 11 voting-member interests and 7 state agency non-voting members. RFPG membership will be voluntary, and TWDB will designate the initial members of each region’s planning group...

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Newly Launched Matagorda Bay Ecosystem Assessment can Inform Conservation Efforts

By Danielle Goshen, Water Policy & Outreach Specialist, Galveston Bay Foundation Some places truly do have it all. Matagorda Bay, located along the coast in Southeastern Texas is a veritable treasure trove of charismatic species. Relatively undeveloped compared to other Bay systems along the Texas coast, Matagorda Bay is home to many species listed as threatened and endangered on both the federal and state level. A few of these at-risk species include the Kemps Ridley and loggerhead sea turtles, interior least tern, and piping plovers. Even a few members of the last wild migrating flock of whooping crane, whose recovering population has been recently estimated to be just over 500, have been spotted hunting blue...

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One Water in Action: Travis County Courthouse

By Jennifer Walker, National Wildlife Federation & Bill Moriarty This summer, Travis County broke ground on the new Civil and Family Court Building. The 435,000 square foot facility is located at 1700 Guadalupe Street and sits on 1.46-acres.  It is located in the northern part of downtown which is rapidly being re-developed. Travis County leadership realized early that construction of this new facility was a unique opportunity to deploy One Water strategies for the good of the community.  Commissioner Brigid Shea worked closely with the City of Austin’s Water Forward Task Force, Austin Water, and the County’s engineering team to develop a facility that will capture much of its water supply onsite thereby substantially reducing...

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