Highlights from our first Texas Water Trust Workshop

In February, Texas Living Waters teamed up with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to host the Texas Water Trust Workshop. The program was designed to raise awareness among government officials, water managers, nonprofit staff and others on the Water Trust, which is a little-known and under-utilized program that has the potential to make a huge impact on our ecosystems.

What is the Texas Water Trust?

The Texas Water Trust was created by the 75th Texas Legislature in 1997. It offers landowners and other water rights holders the opportunity to dedicate water rights to the state, either temporarily or permanently, in order to protect streamflows and freshwater inflows. The Trust is primarily overseen by the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and TPWD also have key roles in the program. In 2021, the Texas Legislature enacted HB 2225, which enhanced TPWD’s role in encouraging and facilitating additions to the trust, and ensuring that water rights are managed to maximize flow protection. Until the bill was passed, no state agency was specifically tasked with this role.

The first donation to the trust was made in 2003, by a lawyer and rancher named Kit Bramblett in Hudspeth County. In a Texas Parks and Wildlife press release from that year, he said, “I donated to the Water Trust because I wanted to see the Rio Grande running. The river ran from the 1970s until this spring, when it dried up and all the fish died.” Bramblett donated two rights, totaling 1,236 acre-feet of water per year to TPWD, which placed them in the Trust.

Though the Trust has existed for more than two decades, there has not been a concerted effort to encourage its use. Today, it only holds three water rights: Two parcels along the Rio Grande, and one in the Guadalupe River Basin. Since 2012, the Texas Water Development Board has only received 10 inquiries about donations to the Trust.

How can we improve the Trust?

Texas Living Waters is bringing our team’s expertise to the table, and will collaborate with TPWD to make the Trust more accessible. This February, we hosted a workshop on this important tool, and how it can benefit our state’s precious ecosystems and wildlife. Experts from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Water Development Board, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, AMP Insights, The Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Federation shared case studies, tools, and how similar programs work in other states.

Speakers at the Texas Water Trust Workshop

Participants were able to learn about:

  • How other Western states, like Oregon, Washington, and Nevada manage water rights and environmental flows through trusts and other non-regulatory approaches
  • The roles of nonprofits and state agencies in completing water trust transactions
  • Recent legislative changes that can help facilitate the process for placing water rights in the Trust
  • Tools for identifying flow protection needs
  • How the Trust could address issues such as proposed listing and threatened and endangered aquatic species

To learn more, you can access the presentations from the workshop and find more information on our speakers here.

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The Texas Living Waters Project is transforming the way we manage water so there will be enough for our wildlife, our economy, and our kids. Forever.

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