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With hurricane seasons intensifying and built development proliferating, natural infrastructure represents a critical avenue for the Houston-area to both protect itself from future flooding and ensure livable green spaces for its communities.

This report provides an overview of natural infrastructure and associated terms. It outlines the benefits of this approach and highlights seven existing natural infrastructure projects in Houston. It also provides details on a number of proposed projects still open to funding.

The report was developed in collaboration with Bayou City Waterkeeper, Bayou Land Conservancy, Bayou Preservation Association, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Galveston Bay Foundation, Houston Advanced Research Center, Katy Prairie Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation.

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The polar vortex that descended on Texas from February 13 to 17, 2021 exposed not only the state’s ill-prepared electric grid, but also our aging, inadequate water infrastructure. As the Texas Legislature, state agencies, and local communities examine and address the failures that led to widespread suffering, loss of life, and economic harm during this winter storm and its aftermath, we urge decision-makers to consider how we might approach our water infrastructure differently as well.

We offer the following high-level policy recommendations to help ensure that all Texans have reliable access to safe drinking water, that their wastewater is properly treated, that the systems providing these essential services can quickly recover from shocks and stresses, and that our water utilities are equipped to adapt and grow from disruptive events.

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The Texas Coast and Water Program at the National Wildlife Federation (a founding member of the Texas Living Waters Project) presents here its policy priorities for the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. The program calls on elected officials to promote water supply innovation, enable sustainable management of groundwater, invest in state parks, advance natural solutions to flooding, and protect river flows. We also emphasize the pressing need to address social disparities, such as access to broadband internet, in order to improve public participation in ongoing planning processes related to disaster mitigation and natural resources.

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This first-ever Texas Living Waters Annual Report introduces readers to our work over the course of a transformative 2020. Our team nearly doubled in size as we doubled-down on our commitment to climate resilience, urban water management, and water for wildlife. We invite you to take a dive into Becoming Resilient to see where we’ve been this year and where we plan to go.

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