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A sustainable water playbook for the future of rural Texas 

In West Texas, water has been a resource more likely to inspire competition than collaboration. The region’s prospects for a vibrant future depend upon a different approach to water management, one that enables collaborative investments in water resilience for all water users. 

Texas Water Trade is using market-based water solutions to re-imagine the region’s economic future – a future where ample water resources can mutually support the energy sector, agriculture, recreational tourism, and the environment. Our work focuses on two important freshwater resources: the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer and the Pecos River. 

In the Fort Stockton region, we are building a voluntary water marketplace to sustain the resilience of one of Texas’ most prolific aquifers, the Edwards- Trinity. In 2022, we achieved a historic agreement with the state’s largest pecan producer to co-invest in irrigation efficiency improvements – with the 1,500 acre-feet of water saved dedicated to remaining in the aquifer for 15 years. 

Over the next three years, we will seek to secure additional, voluntary transactions to reduce annual water demand in the aquifer by 4,000 acre-feet – specifically in the Comanche Springs Management Zone. These irrigation savings create immediate operational efficiencies for irrigators through lower energy and labor costs and contribute to water resilience for all groundwater users dependent on this shared resource. Reduced demand on the aquifer also advances our bold experiment to sustain and restore flows at Comanche Springs, once Texas’ sixth largest spring, which went dry in the 1960s due to a rapid increase in groundwater production in its contributing zone. With local stakeholders in Fort Stockton, we will continue to test the potential for heritage tourism to support this voluntary water conservation marketplace with the mutually-reinforcing goals of enhancing flows at Comanche Springs and growing the local tourism economy. 

We are also re-imagining how the Pecos River can be managed to sustain a vibrant energy sector while restoring agricultural production and wildlife habitat. The Pecos, which slices through the heart of the Permian Basin, is a critical freshwater resource for migratory birds passing through the Central Flyway. In coordination with Audubon Texas, one of our Texas Water Market Makers, we will test the potential to boost water deliveries on the Pecos River for agriculture and for wildlife. We will also engage with strategic partners on the potential to repurpose legacy energy resources for the benefit of agricultural producers and Texas’ freshwater-dependent wildlife.