Quarterbacking a comeback for a lost water resource in West Texas
The story of Comanche Springs is known to every student of Texas water law. Once a 30 million gallon a day oasis on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, Comanche Springs supported native populations and early settlers through the 1940s, when it began to sputter. It finally went dry in the 1950s due to significant groundwater pumping upstream from the springs.
Over the last decade, however, the once-quiet springs have begun flowing again in the late winter months when the aquifer rebounded from summer irrigation pumping – leading some people to ask, “Could Comanche Springs be permanently restored?”
The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and Texas Water Trade are undertaking a feasibility assessment of a market-based restoration of Comanche Springs. Over the coming year –and with generous support from the Fort Stockton Visitors Bureau and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – we will be evaluating what it would take to restore perennial flows using voluntary, market-based cooperation of groundwater owners in the Comanche Springs’ contributing and recharge zones.
By early 2020, we will recommend the most effective market design for permanently reducing groundwater pumping and develop a financing plan to capitalize the market. Given the importance of agriculture to Fort Stockton and Pecos County, our goal is to identify the optimal solution for restoring the spring while maintaining agricultural productivity – and doing so with the voluntary cooperation of local groundwater owners.