Texas Water Trade Unveils First Aquifer Resilience Fund in West Texas
For immediate release: July 12, 2022
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Water Trade, a nonprofit established to enable the use of voluntary water transactions to benefit people and nature, has unveiled its first Aquifer Resilience Fund to allow landowners to conserve their groundwater without losing ownership of it.
The fund will pay landowners to invest in water efficiency measures that can leave more groundwater in storage while maintaining profitable operations. The first user of the fund is Belding Farms of Fort Stockton, Texas, which received $100,000 in May to help install a pilot high-efficiency irrigation system for its pecan orchard to reduce pumping from the aquifer for 15 years. If the pilot performs well, the efficient system could be expanded to the full 2,200 acre farm.
“We are proud to be part of this historic agreement, which builds on an emerging effort to conserve groundwater through financial incentives,” said Ernest H. Cockrell, Chairman of Cockrell Investment Partners and owner of Belding Farms. “This type of voluntary agreement can be replicated across the State of Texas to benefit groundwater rights holders and the state as a whole.”
A major impediment to groundwater conservation is the risk of losing ownership rights if usage falls below permitted amounts. The fund includes protection against forfeiture of those rights under the rules of the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District, which regulates groundwater production in the county.
The Aquifer Resilience Fund will use $1.275 million committed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Texas Water Development Board and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to attract corporate, government and philanthropic funds to finance conservation agreements in the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer in West Texas.
Texas Water Trade aims to expand the fund to include water offset contracts with companies in agriculture, beverage, data, energy and hospitality in Pecos County. An increasing number of companies operating in Texas have pledged to net out their water demands through investments in water conservation in the rivers and aquifers where they source their water. Texas Water Trade is a provider of verifiable water offsets.
In addition, Texas Water Trade will explore other forms of funding such as investment capital and commitments from municipal water users in the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District’s Comanche Springs Management Zone, a regulatory area which includes the iconic Comanche Springs.
“Voluntary agreements to preserve, conserve and protect groundwater are an important tool for investing in Texas’ long-term water security,” said Carlos Rubinstein, Board Member of Texas Water Trade and former Chair of the Texas Water Development Board. “Statewide, the majority of Texas’ groundwater resources are being managed for unsustainable planned depletion. This Aquifer Resilience Fund demonstrates that nonprofits, private landowners and other stakeholders can collaborate to enhance water resilience for all users.”
Eligible activities for Texas Water Trade’s Aquifer Resilience Fund include efficiency upgrades of irrigation systems, reoperation of agricultural activities to cut water demands while keeping acreage in production, and leasing and purchase of water rights for dedication to the aquifer. More water left in the aquifer increases its reliability of supply and quality of water produced.
The aquifer is the primary source of Comanche Springs, which was the sixth-largest spring in Texas until it stopped flowing in 1961 due to a tremendous increase in groundwater production.
The Edwards-Trinity is one of Texas’ major aquifers and provides drinking water and agricultural irrigation across West Texas. The Comanche Springs Management Zone supports all of the drinking water for the City of Fort Stockton and irrigation for more than 12,000 acres of farmland, including Belding Farms, one of the state’s largest pecan growing operations.
In the coming years, the Comanche Springs Management Zone is anticipated to experience growing demands for drinking water for other West Texas cities. TWT created the Aquifer Resilience Fund to enable current and future water users in Pecos County to collectively invest in the aquifer’s long-term health and sustainability.
To learn more about Texas Water Trade’s work to enable voluntary water transactions across Texas for the benefit of people and nature, see www.texaswatertrade.org.
Contact: Peyton Fleming, Texas Water Trade