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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.

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More than a decade in the making, this report provides a comprehensive analysis of the history and current state of Texas’ landmark environmental flows regulatory framework established by Senate Bill 3 (SB 3). Noted environmental flows expert, Myron Hess, assesses the mandates laid out by SB 3 and their state of implementation a decade into the process.

While his findings are deeply concerning, Hess also lays out a path forward, providing practical, workable solutions for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the state legislature to revive the SB 3 process and protect the state’s endangered natural heritage.

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This guidebook, a joint project of the Hill Country Alliance and National Wildlife Federation, is intended to connect Hill Country communities facing growth and increased demands for water with water professionals experienced with One Water strategies, planning, implementation, design and construction. We interviewed engineers, architects, planners and landscape designers to gain insight into the realities of One Water projects, and within these pages feature the 14 selected professionals along with an example project each completed in Texas.

Finding and connecting with consultants who can be trusted with a community’s most precious resource—its water—is a serious undertaking, and we hope this guidebook gives you a good place to start. Our organizations are committed to help you along the way as well.

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Texas lawmakers have a unique opportunity to address the state’s fragile water infrastructure with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) explicitly authorizing the use of federal funds to make needed investments in water and sewer infrastructure. A broad coalition of rural, conservation, and equity-focused organizations today released a set of proposed guidelines to help Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature take full advantage of ARPA funding for water infrastructure purposes.

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