Resolving Endangered Species Act – Water Conflicts
The Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program – Endangered Species Act
By Robert L. Gulley and Todd H. Votteler
Mark Twain is frequently (perhaps incorrectly) attributed with the observation that “whiskey is for drinking and water is for ﬁghting over.” At least part of that observation is clearly appropriate to south central Texas where, for over 50 years, use of the Edwards Aquifer has inspired regional antagonism and periodically open conﬂict in courts and the state legislature. A seemingly intractable dispute has raged between and among municipalities, industrial and agricultural users, as well as environmental interests and downstream surface right holders dependent on springﬂows, regarding whether pumping from the Aquifer should be regulated. In the early 1990s, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) brought state regulation to the Aquifer and ended unrestricted withdrawals.
The conﬂicts, however, have not ended. Today, competing water needs within the region continue to inﬂuence management of the resource, and a workable plan for the long- term protection for the federally-listed species has yet to be adopted among the region’s stakeholders. As a result, in 2006-2007, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Texas Legislature brought together stakeholders from throughout the region to participate in a unique collaborative process to develop a plan to contribute to the recovery of federally-listed species under the Endangered Species Act dependent on the Edwards Aquifer. This process is referred to as the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP).
This paper brieﬂy describes the Edwards Aquifer, the history of the disputes regarding the Aquifer, EARIP and its accomplishments, and EARIP’s plans for future work to solve what has been an intractable problem in the region over Endangered Species Act listed species. Click here for more detailed information about EARIP ( http://www.eahcp.org/ )
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