Flowing Rivers and Healthy Bays:
New Legislation Will Protect Water for the Environment
What are ‘environmental flows’?
Environmental flows are the amount of water necessary for a river, estuary or other
freshwater system to maintain its health and productivity.
Why this law is unique
In Texas, like much of the West, the concept of leaving water for the environment
has been controversial. Water left in a river to flow out into an estuary or the Gulf
of Mexico was once commonly described as ‘wasted.’ Now we know better.
The new law is one of the most comprehensive in the nation, as it will set environ-
mental flow standards for every major river system in the state. The law sets up a The last flock of wild, mi-
public process for soliciting input from scientists and stakeholders. The state will grating whooping cranes
then adopt legal standards for each river and bay system. winters along the Texas
coast. Populations of its
If implemented well, this should set a national precedent showing how water re- main food source, the blue
sources can be managed rationally to meet human needs and protect the environ- crab, are correlated with the
ment. The legislation grew out of negotiations between environmental groups and amount of freshwater flow-
an association of water suppliers. ing into the San Antonio Bay
system. A new law creates a
process to determine how
Why it matters to wildlife much freshwater the bay
needs to stay healthy.
This new law will benefit rivers and streams throughout the state, but its impact
may be most pronounced along the coast.
Texas has seven major coastal estuaries, or bays, formed by freshwater from rivers
mixing with the saltier water of the Gulf of Mexico. This mixture of salt and fresh
water is vital for fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs and many species of birds. It is the en-
gine behind the $2 billion coastal recreational and commercial fishing economy.
The diversity of bird species found on the Texas coast is among the highest in the
world. A birding destination near Matagorda Bay, for example, regularly tops the
Audubon Society’s prestigious Christmas Bird Count. The endangered whooping
crane, which winters along San Antonio Bay near the mouth of the Guadalupe and
San Antonio rivers, illustrates the importance of adequate flows (photo).
In 2001, the Rio Grande
The issue is pressing failed to reach the Gulf due
Texas is growing faster than any other state in the nation; the population may dou- to a combination of drought
ble by mid-century. Projections, such as the National Wildlife Federation’s 2004 and overuse. Texas’ popula-
report Bays in Peril, indicate that many of the state’s rivers and estuaries could end tion is expected to double
up deprived of adequate freshwater, particularly in drier years. However, there is by mid-century, threatening
other Texas rivers with the
still time to change course and to avoid serious long-term damage to Texas’ rivers
same fate if nothing is done.
Determining how much water is needed
The new law establishes a process for determining how much water is needed and
begins the process of securing the water for the environment.
Each area of the state will have a team of stakeholders from diverse interest groups
and a science team made up solely of technical experts.
The science team will make recommendations for flow quantities based on what the
best available science indicates the rivers and bays need. Then the stakeholder group
will look at the science team recommendations and consider them in conjunction
with water management policies to develop their own set of recommendations.
Commercial and recrea-
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will then consider both the sci- tional fishing along the
ence team recommendations and the stakeholder group recommendations, along Texas coast create $2 billion
with public input, and adopt formal environmental flow standards. of economic activity annu-
ally. Most of Texas’ marine
sportfish depend on the mix
These standards will be the goals for the amount of flows in the river and into the
of salt and fresh water
associated bay system. The flow standards likely will use a building-block approach, found in estuaries for at
with a minimum level of flows to be provided during droughts and additional flow least one part of their life-
levels to be provided during wetter periods. cycle.
Securing the water
When adopting the flow standards, the state environmental commission will also
“set-aside” some of the water that is not already spoken for by existing permits.
In some river systems, however, there will be little water available for the environ-
mental flow set-asides. In these cases, the stakeholder groups will make recommen-
dations on how to make up the difference. This will likely include the dedication of
urban return flows, incentives to use water more efficiently, and donations or volun-
tary purchases of existing water rights.
Basins starting the process July 2008
A. Sabine & Neches rivers, Sabine Lake
B. Trinity & San Jacinto rivers, Galveston Bay
Basins starting the process May 2009
D. Colorado & Lavaca rivers, Matagorda &
Lavaca bays The new law will set flow
E. Guadalupe, San Antonio, Mission, & Aran- levels at various points in
sas rivers, Aransas & San Antonio bays Texas’ rivers, protecting
Basins starting the process May 2010 water in the river as well as
C. Brazos River & estuary area where the river finally flows
F. Nueces River, Corpus Christi & Baffin bays into an estuary along the
G. Rio Grande & Lower Laguna Madre Gulf of Mexico. It is arguably
the most comprehensive
Basins with dates to be determined law of its kind in any state in
H. Cypress River Basin
I. Sulphur River Basin
J. Red River Basin
K. Canadian River Basin
Please get involved! Go to our website www.texaswatermatters.org/flows.htm to learn about what’s happening in
your area, sign up to get updates as they happen, and to get involved with the stakeholder process.
Questions? Call 512-476-9805 or email Jennifer Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Overview of the
Environmental Flows Allocation Process
Texas Environmental Flows Science Environmental Flows Advisory Group
Advisory Committee This group creates both the Texas Environmental Flows
Will provide science-based recommendations to agency Science Advisory Committee and the individual Bay/Basin
staff regarding ongoing studies and, through a liaison Stakeholder Groups. They will also define the bay/basin
member, work with Bay/Basin Expert Science Teams to areas. This Group may also make comments to TCEQ about
ensure consistent application of scientific principles. the various flows recommendations.
Bay/Basin Expert Science Team Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group
Working with technical support from state agencies and Members are to be named by the Environmental Flows
academic institutions, the Science Team will develop flow Advisory Group. The Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group then
recommendations based solely on best available science. establishes the Bay/Basin Expert Science Team. The
Recommendations will be presented to the Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group will provide flows recommendations,
Stakeholder Group, the Environmental Flows Advisory based on considerations of science and policy, directly to
Group and TCEQ. TCEQ and also to the Environmental Flows Advisory Group.
TCEQ, TPWD & TWDB
Agency scientific staff provide technical
support and input to Bay/Basin Expert Public
Science Team. Agency staffs also continue Input
work on ongoing long-term studies of
instream flow and freshwater inflow needs.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
TCEQ Commissioners will receive recommendations from Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group and
Bay/Basin Expert Science Team as well as input from Environmental Flows Advisory Group, agency
staff, and interested members of the public. Based on those recommendations and input, and
taking both science and policy into account, TCEQ adopts rules establishing environmental flow
standards for the bay/basin area, including a set-aside of unappropriated flows.
Gray boxes indicate Gray to Blue shaded boxes
scientific consideration Key indicate scientific and
only policy consideration
Please turn over for a description of the process
Interaction of Bay/Basin Stakeholder Groups & Bay/Basin Science Teams
1. The Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group establishes Bay/Basin Science Team. Science Team is
made up of scientists and technical experts with knowledge of region-specific issues and of
scientists and technical experts with experience in developing environmental flow
2. Stakeholder Group makes arrangements with state agencies and academic institutions to
provide technical support for Stakeholder Group and for Science Team. Technical support
would consist of efforts like performing literature reviews, undertaking water availability
calculations using state water availability models, and helping to compile available
information for use by the Stakeholder Group and Science Team. However, technical
support would NOT include responsibility for developing the actual recommendations,
which will be undertaken collectively by the Science Team.
3. Neither technical support contractor nor Science Team will be expected to undertake new
substantive studies. Best available science will be used based on existing studies.
Recommendations from the Science Team should note critical uncertainties and should
identify information gaps that need to be addressed through future studies to help inform
adaptive management process.
4. Bay/Basin Science Team develops its recommendations for a flow regime that, based solely
on best available science, would be adequate to protect a sound ecological environment and
to maintain the productivity, extent, and persistence of key aquatic habitats in and along the
affected water bodies. The Texas Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee
provides input, as appropriate. Because the Science Team would be meeting and working
locally, Stakeholder Group will be able to observe process to help inform subsequent
5. Stakeholder Group then develops their own set of recommendations by considering the
science-based recommendations in conjunction with important water policy considerations.
The resulting Stakeholder recommendations will include proposals for the extent to which
recommended flows should be provided through set aside of unappropriated flow.
6. TCEQ receives science-only recommendations from Bay/Basin Science Team, and science
and policy combined recommendations from Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group. TCEQ also
receives input from Environmental Flows Advisory Group, agency staff, and interested
members of the public. Having separate science-based recommendations ensures that policy
tradeoffs are transparent and helps to ensure a better informed TCEQ rulemaking process.
7. TCEQ adopts rules establishing environmental flow standards for the bay/basin area based
on these recommendations and input, taking both science and policy into account. These
rules will include a set-aside of unappropriated flows.
Trinity & San Jacinto Rivers/Galveston Bay
Timeline for the Environmental Flows Allocation Process
Original Revised Dates* Action
Dates (SB3) (re: 7/08 EFAG mtg)
Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 3 take effect, beginning the Environmental
Flows Allocation Process.
The Environmental Flows Advisory Group is created.
Before Named at 7/08
The Texas Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee is created.
11/01/07 EFAG mtg
The Environmental Flows Advisory Group defines the geographical
Map adopted at
By 11/01/07 extend of the river basins/bay system area for the purposes of developing
7/08 EFAG mtg
environmental flow regime recommendations.
Named at 7/08 The Environmental Flows Advisory Group appoints the Bay/Basin
EFAG mtg Stakeholder Group.
The Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group establishes the Bay/Basin Expert
By 03/01/08 By 12/1/08
The Bay/Basin Expert Science Team uses best available science to
develop its recommendations for an environmental flow regime to protect
a sound ecological environment. The Team submits these
03/01/08 - 12/1/08 – 12/1/09
recommendations to the Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group (and to the
03/01/09 (one year)
Environmental Flow Advisory Group and the Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality) by 12/1/09. These recommendations are solely
The Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group considers the Bay/Basin Expert
Science Team’s recommended environmental flow regime, the associated
03/01/09 - 12/1/09 – 6/1/10 policy considerations, and strategies to meet the flow recommendations.
9/01/09 (six months) The Stakeholder Group submits its comments and recommendations to
the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by 6/1/10. These are a
composite of science- and policy-based recommendations.
The Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group, with assistance from the Bay/Basin
Expert Science Team, prepares and submits a work plan to address
After 9/01/09 After 6/1/10 adaptive management (periodic review of the bay/basin environmental
flow analyses, regime recommendations, standards and strategies to meet
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality adopts the
6/1/10 - 6/1/11
By 9/01/10 environmental flow standards for the Sabine & Neches Rivers/Sabine
Lake Bay area.
* At the 7/08 meeting of the Environmental Flows Advisory Group, the group adopted a revised schedule to the process—a 9 month slide to the dates and timeframes
listed in Senate Bill 3. www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/MeetingsByCmte.aspx?Leg=80&Chamber=J&CmteCode=C805
Last updated October, 2008
Environmental Flows Allocation Process
Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 3
SB3 and HB3 were passed by the 80th Texas Legislature and took effect September 1, 2007. Article 1 of SB3 and HB3
addresses Environmental Flows, creating the Environmental Flows Allocation Process. For bill text:
Environmental Flows Allocation Process
The Environmental Flows Allocation Process was created by the 80th Texas Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 3 and House
Bill 3 in 2007. This process will address two key components: a) how much water needs to flow in Texas rivers and into bays
to maintain a sound ecological environment, and b) how to ensure that much flow is protected.
Environmental Flows Advisory Group (EFAG)
This group creates the Texas Environmental Flows Science Advisory Group and the eleven Bay/Basin Stakeholder Groups.
In addition to interacting with these groups, the EFAG may make comments to TCEQ about the various flows
recommendations. They also define the geographic boundaries of the bay/basin areas. This is a nine member group made up
of three TX senators, three TX house members, one TCEQ commissioner, one Texas Water Development Board board
member, and one Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner. Members were appointed by the governor, lt. governor and
speaker of the house. See: www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/MembershipCmte.aspx?LegSess=80R&CmteCode=C805
Texas Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee
This Committee provides science-based recommendations to state agency staff regarding ongoing studies and, through a
liaison member, works with Bay/Basin Expert Science Teams to ensure consistent application of scientific principles. This is
a nine member committee appointed by the Environmental Flows Advisory Group. See:
Geographical extent of the river basins/bay system area
Environmental Flows Advisory Group is to define the geographical extend of each river basin/bay system area in the state for
the purpose of the Environmental Flows Allocation Process. Bay/Basin map boundaries were adopted at the 7/08 EFAG
meeting. See map: www.tceq.state.tx.us/assets/public/permitting/watersupply/groups/sb3_priority_basins.pdf
Environmental Flow Regime
This is a schedule of flow quantities that reflects seasonal and yearly fluctuations that typically would vary geographically,
by specific location in a watershed, and that are shown to be adequate to support a sound ecological environment and
maintain the productivity, extent, and persistence of key aquatic habitats in and along the affected water bodies.
Bay/Basin Stakeholder Group
Seventeen stakeholder categories will be represented by the citizens on this group, each with an interest in environmental
flows in their designated bay/basin area. The Stakeholder Group provides flows recommendations, based on considerations
of both science and policy, directly to TCEQ and also to the Environmental Flows Advisory Group. For more about these
Groups or to sign up to get involved, see www.texaswatermatters.org/bay_basin_stakeholder.htm. For information on the
activities of the two stakeholder groups that are up and running (Sabine and Trinity) see:
Bay/Basin Expert Science Team
This team works with technical support from state agencies and academic institutions to develop environmental flows regime
recommendations based solely on the best available science. Recommendations are presented to Bay/Basin Stakeholder
Group, Environmental Flows Advisory Group, and TCEQ. These recommendations will be the first building block the
Stakeholder Group uses in coming up with its environmental flow recommendations that will consider both science and
policy. For more details about these Science Teams or to sign up to get involved, see
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
The state agency responsible for developing the legal environmental flow standards and set-asides for each Bay/Basin area
through a public rule-making process at the end of that area’s Environmental Flows Allocation Process.
Adaptive management is a structured, iterative process of decision-making in the face of uncertainty, with the goal of
reducing uncertainty over time through systems monitoring. This approach embraces flexibility and adaptation.
Things You Can Do To:
Keep Texas Springs & Rivers Flowing
& Coastal Bays Healthy
• Learn More About Texas Water Issues! Check out the Texas Living Waters Project website
www.texaswatermatters.org, a clearinghouse of water-related information.
• Get your Group to Endorse our ‘Principles for Protecting Texas’ Water Resources.’ Click on the link
under “Take Action to Protect Texas Water” at www.texaswatermatters.org.
• Practice Water Conservation! There are many things you can do to reduce water use in
your home and yard. See www.texaswatermatters.org/conservation.htm for water
conservation tips sheets, links and information about how to conserve.
• Help spread the word about the new Environmental Flows Allocation Process. New legislation has been
passed to determine the amounts of water needed and methods for keeping it flowing in rivers and into bays to
sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations. One way to help spread the word about this important scientific
and stakeholder based process is by running an article in your organization’s newsletter. Contact Jennifer Ellis
at email@example.com or 512-476-9805 for text.
• Promote Water Conservation in your Community. Contact your City Council and/or Water
Supplier and urge them to offer conservation incentives in your community. See the Water
Conservation Implementation Task Force’s report for a full list of conservation options:
• Join the Texas Living Waters Project Listserv. We will notify you of easy opportunities to send letters,
make comments, attend conferences and items relating directly to our efforts to protect Texas waters (<2
emails per month). Contact Jennifer Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-476-9805.
• Get involved in the Environmental Flows Allocation Process (EFAP). Are you a
fisherman, rancher, paddler or other water user that has an interest in keeping Texas rivers
flowing and bays healthy? Stay informed about the EFAP or add your name to the list of
potential stakeholder candidates. Go to www.texaswatermatters.org/flows.htm to sign up.
• Attend your Regional Water Planning Group meetings. Get involved in the process! See
http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/RWPG/group_info.asp for group information and meeting dates.
• Contact your Regional Water Planning Group members. Urge them to include environmental flows as a
category of water need to be planned for in their regional water plan. See www.twdb.state.tx.us/RWPG/main-
docs/mbr-main.asp for membership information and contact information for the chairperson of each group.
Not sure which water planning region you are in? See www.texaswatermatters.org/regions.htm.
• Write a Letter to the Editor or place an Article in your Organization’s Newsletter. Raise awareness about
the need to protect environmental flows, use groundwater supplies sustainably, and promote water
conservation as the first option for creating water supply. Contact Lacey McCormick at email@example.com
or 512-476-9805 if you need any help.
SIMPLE WATER CONSERVATION TIPS
TYPICAL HOME WATER USE* CLOTHES WASHER
The single best thing you can do to improve clothes
washer efficiency is to replace an old inefficient machine
with a new high efficiency washer. In addition, you can:
♦ Use the shortest wash cycle for lightly soiled loads.
♦ Pretreat stains to avoid rewashing.
♦ If your washer has a variable water volume setting,
select the minimum amount required per load.
♦ Operate the washer with full loads only – even if the
machine has an adjustable load setting.
Source: TWDB, A Homeowners Guide to Water Use and Conservation (1990)
*These percentages can vary considerably depending on season, yard composition,
irrigation system type, geographic region, installation of water efficient appliances and
plumbing fixtures, and individual habits.
The following list includes some simple ways
to curb your water use around the house:
indoors and outdoors.
INDOOR WATER USES:
♦ Make sure that you have installed a water-
efficient showerhead in all of your bathrooms.
♦ Take shorter showers.
♦ Turn off the water while soaping up or
♦ Only fill the bathtub to a maximum of six
inches (bathing small children and pets
requires much less water).
♦ Make sure that your bathtub drain plug doesn’t
Source: reproduced from Natural Outlook, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Toilet use is typically the largest category of DISHWASHER
indoor water use and there is substantial room ♦ Run the dishwasher only when it is full of dishes (in
for water savings. most cases running your dishwasher with a full load
The single best thing you can do to improve toilet will use less water than washing the same number of
efficiency is to replace an old inefficient toilet with a dishes by hand).
new toilet (check to see if your water utility offers ♦ Many newer dishwashers require little or no advance
any rebates for replacing old inefficient toilets). rinsing of dishes.
In addition, you can:
♦ Flush less frequently. ♦ Install water-efficient faucet aerators on all your
♦ Check your toilet for leaks household faucets.
by adding a few drops of ♦ Do not run the faucet continuously while washing
food coloring to the tank dishes, brushing your teeth, shaving, etc.
and seeing if the bowl-water ♦ Keep a plastic basin in your sink and collect faucet
changes color. water for use on your landscape.
♦ Replace the flapper if necessary; make sure it is ♦ Avoid using the garbage disposal; instead dispose of
the correct flapper for your toilet model. food scraps in the garbage or in a compost pile.
Do your part to help KEEP TEXAS RIVERS FLOWING—Conserve water!
OUTDOOR WATER USES: USING THE HOSE
♦ Rake and sweep leaves -- don't hose them away
Consider installing a rainwater harvesting system; (using the hose to wash down sidewalks, driveways,
it can be an easy, effective way to save water and pavements is a wasteful and unnecessary
outdoors. Check with your local water provider to practice).
see if they offer rebates on rainwater harvesting
barrels and larger systems. For activities that require using a hose:
♦ Fill a bucket with water for washing your car at
♦ Avoid oscillating sprinklers and sprinkler heads ♦ Use a spray nozzle with a cutoff handle on your hose
that produce mists or fine sprays (they result in so water doesn't flow continuously.
evaporation losses). Drip systems or soaker
hoses are most efficient.
♦ Use buckets rather than a hose or automatic
system to water small gardens, flowers, plants,
and shrubs so you have more control over
where the water goes.
♦ Only water your yard and garden. Concrete
sidewalks and gutters don't grow!
♦ Adjust your irrigation controller at least once a
month to account for changes in the weather.
♦ Request an irrigation system audit from your
local utility (many water providers offer this as
a free service and it’s a great way to learn how
you can more efficiently operate your sprinkler
♦ Less frequent, longer irrigation cycles can
promote deep percolation. Also, install a rain
shut-off valve to avoid unnecessary watering.
♦ Only water your landscape before sun-up or
after sun-down to reduce evaporation losses.
Train your lawn:
♦ Mow as infrequently as possible, and when you
do mow, set the mower on its highest setting.
Cutting the grass too short causes stress,
forcing the roots to work harder and use more
♦ By spreading out your watering you can help
your lawn to establish deeper roots that will
help it survive drought periods. Most types of SWIMMING POOLS
grass, even thirsty St. Augustine, need only 1" ♦ Use a pool cover (it will reduce water loss due to
of water every five days. normal evaporation).
♦ Use mulch around plants and flowers. The ♦ Repair any swimming pool leaks.
mulch reduces evaporation and keeps water ♦ Manually clean your filter.
near the roots where it's most beneficial. ♦ Plug the overflow line when the pool is in use and
♦ Minimize fertilization (heavily fertilized lawns always when adding water.
use more water, are more susceptible to ♦ Turn off the tile-spray device on your automatic pool
drought stress, and create run off that pollutes cleaner.
the water supply).
♦ Minimize turf-covered areas in your lawn - be Want more info on water conservation?
creative and add a variety of vegetation!
♦ Convert to native grasses, plants, shrubs, and Visit the Texas Living Waters Project website at:
trees in your landscape. Native plants http://www.texaswatermatters.org
contribute to wildlife habitat, are more drought-
resistant and require less water than turf For additional information see:
grasses. See www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat http://www.twdb.state.tx.us
for information on how to create a water
conserving landscape that will also benefit For excellent rebate programs available to City of Austin
wildlife. customers, see: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/watercon/
♦ Group plants according to water needs. Ask your local provider to offer similar programs.
Do your part to help KEEP TEXAS RIVERS FLOWING—Conserve water!