Groundwater provides about 60% of our yearly water supply in Texas — it is a vital, yet limited, resource that supports Texas communities, economies, and natural systems. Despite its importance, across most of Texas, groundwater is being managed in a way that allows for its eventual depletion, putting communities, rivers and streams and the ecosystems that depend on groundwater at risk. A recent report from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment concluded groundwater conservation districts, Texas' preferred method of managing groundwater, have an opportunity to change course and to manage groundwater sustainably.
Fortunately, the Texas Legislature wisely imparted management obligations on GCDs that are imperative for long-term water security and livability of Texas' communities. And the Legislature has equipped GCDs with a full toolbox of planning, rulemaking, and permitting authorities to carry out their management obligations. GCDs have flexibility within their existing authorities to integrate sustainability principles into management goals, desired future conditions, management plans, and rules. Although GCDs face challenges managing a common pool resource that is privately owned and many suffer from a lack of funding and state investment in local data and modeling, GCDs can still move toward sustainable management by actively engaging the public and implementing new approaches through smaller, targeted programs, enabling GCDs to fully utilize the tools already available to them.