Texas is a state with a wealth of natural beauty, including a remarkable bounty of flowing streams and rivers and productive bays and estuaries along the coast. The health of those streams, rivers, and estuaries is at serious risk from flow depletion in the absence of effective flow protections. Recognizing that risk, the Texas Legislature, in 2007, enacted potentially far-reaching legislation (Senate Bill 3) providing for protection of environmental flows in Texas rivers and streams (instream flows) and into bays and estuaries (freshwater inflows). The first environmental flow standards were adopted in 2011 and the ten-year review period for those initial standards provided for in SB 3 is now upon us.
In anticipation of that review process and the consideration of potential revisions to those standards, this summary provides a snapshot of the state of SB 3 implementation 14 years after passage and offers recommendations for steps to be taken by TCEQ and by the Texas Legislature to address shortcomings in implementation and seize the unrealized potential of that legislative effort.