Integrated Groundwater and Surface Water Flow Model Funding

News Release
Media Contact: info@devilsriverconservancy.org, 512-482-4412

May 23, 2017

Meadows Foundation Grants $75,000 to Devils River Conservancy for an Integrated Groundwater- Surface Water Flow Model

AUSTIN — The Devils River Conservancy, a 501(c)3 organization created to protect what is considered the most ecologically intact Texas river, has been granted $75,000 by the Meadows Foundation to develop an Integrated Surface Water- Groundwater Flow Model for the Devils River basin in Val Verde County. The Devils is 100% dependent on groundwater that springs from the karst limestone formations of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer and is a major tributary to the Rio Grande. The research supported by this grant builds upon recent hydrologic studies and expands the understanding of the relationship between surface and groundwater. This model aims to aid the water management in the Devils River basin by providing an in-depth understanding of the hydrology and effects of groundwater pumping. “The Meadows Foundation is pleased to play a role to fill in this important research gap and to protect the Devils River for future generations of Texans,” said Mike McCoy, Senior Program Officer with The Meadows Foundation.

“Texas is blessed with both resources and economic growth, but is challenged with how to balance the two. This research is an important step towards unlocking what’s been termed the mysterious or occult nature of groundwater, and should aid the management of the resources and protection of the Devils“, stated Randy Nunns, president of the Devils River Conservancy.

TPWD Announces New Paddler Camp Sites on Iconic Devils River

Feb. 16, 2017

AUSTIN – The Devils River is one of the premier paddling and fishing destinations in Texas, drawing outdoor enthusiasts each year to enjoy the preserved natural beauty, excellent sport fishery, and native wildlife along its clear waters. But the river is not for the faint of heart.

“Due to the remote location of the Devils River, safe, reliable, and legal camp sites on the river are in short supply,” said Joe Joplin, Devils River State Natural Area superintendent. “The average paddler doesn’t make 15 miles in a day, and if they do, it’s not enjoyable.”

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), along with local partners, aims to change that. To help create safe conditions for the recreational use of the Devils River and help minimize trespassing issues, the TPWD River Access and Conservation Area Program (RACA) will open two paddle-up-only camp sites March 1.

According to Timothy Birdsong, Habitat Conservation Chief for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division, the new pack-in, pack-out camp sites aren’t designed to add more paddlers to the river, but rather to provide safe and legal stopping points for the daily limit of TPWD permitted paddlers.

“The reaches of river between Baker’s Crossing, and the Del Norte and Dan A. Hughes Units of our Devils River State Natural Area are relatively long distances, so we strategically added these camp sites roughly mid-distance to create a more safe and enjoyable experience for paddlers,” Birdsong said.

TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said by adding the two new paddle-up only campsites, the organization is setting the conditions to ensure permitted paddlers can explore the river safely and maintain the high standards of river stewardship that will preserve its unique beauty for generations to come.

“I’m proud of what the TPWD River Access Conservation Area Program and our Devils River State Natural Area have been able to do to address the desires and concerns of both local landowners and devoted Devils River paddlers,” Smith said. “This is a win-win deal for everyone who appreciates and respects this iconic Texas river.”

To help promote river use etiquette and river stewardship by paddlers, TPWD is partnering with the Devils River Conservancy (DRC), a nonprofit organization made up of landowners and conservationists whose mission is to preserve and protect the Devils River and the lands within its watershed. Through this partnership, both organizations will be collaborating on an educational video and Devils River Paddler Manual that will be distributed among local guides and vendors to prepare paddlers for overnight trips on the Devils River and help address issues encountered on the water.

“The Devils River is a precious and delicate resource; it cannot sustain unmanaged human pressure without degradation,” the DRC said in a statement provided to TPWD. “The Devils River Conservancy is happy to partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in engaging landowners in the active management of recreation on the Devils River.”

“We hope that the implementation of the designated campsites will decrease the overall impact of human pressure on the river while honoring the private property rights of its land stewards,” the statement continued. “Moving forward, this partnership aims to cultivate the ‘leave no trace’ ethos for the protection for this wild and beloved Texas River for generations to come."

These new paddle-up-only camp sites are the newest additions to TPWD’s statewide network of 19 River Access and Conservation Areas, which offer improved angler and paddler access to more than 100 miles of Texas rivers. The program is funded through federal grants provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and through philanthropy efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

A Devils River Access Permit (DRAP) is required for all trips on the Devils River that access the two units of the Devils River State Natural Area or these two new paddle-up-only camp sites. Visit the Devils River State Natural Area website for reservations, maps, permits and other information.

‘Save the Devils’ Rallies Diverse Crowd in Austin

A diverse group of Texans, all with a keen interest in land and water conservation, gathered in Austin February 25 to learn more about the Devils River—the threats it is facing and the future of its flows.

A standing-room-only crowd listened to Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), who spoke eloquently of the rich biological diversity of the Devils River basin with its spring-fed clear waters that cut through deep limestone canyons and wooded riparian corridors.

Carter Smith addressing a crowd of Devils River supporters at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue.

Carter Smith addressing a crowd of Devils River supporters at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue.

This 94-mile river, located in a rough-hewn landscape of southwest Texas, originates in Sutton County, flows through Val Verde County, and empties in to Amistad Reservoir. The Devils is considered by many as the most pristine, pure river in Texas, and Mr. Smith lauded the Devils River Conservancy (DRC) as a group working to keep it that way.

The purpose of the conservation community gathering was an awareness and fund raising event for the DRC, a non-profit organization formed in 2011 by Devils River basin landowners. Eight board members direct the work of the DRC primarily in the areas of science, advocacy, and education. 

“The DRC is here to stay; our singular mission is to protect and preserve the Devils River and its stream flows and habitat for future generations of Texans,” explained DRC board president, David Honeycutt. “This is the most important conservation story in Texas for our generation, and we have one chance to get it right.”

Attendees at the Austin event came from all parts of the state and represented a broad, diverse group eager to support the DRC mission to treasure, preserve, and protect the Devils River and the lands within its watershed. Four former heads of The Nature Conservancy-Texas chapter were in attendance, as well as other landholders along the Devils, biologists, hydrologists, ranchers, attorneys, real estate professionals, fellow non-profit organizations, and some very generous donors.

A conservation ethic was palatable in the room as images of the Devils River flashed across the screen. The theme of the evening was, “It’s not easy to save a river,” but when all was said and done, it appeared that might be possible after all.

Proposal to Ship Valve Verde Groundwater to San Antonio Ignites Binational Opposition

Water users throughout the semi-desert region stretching along the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo are uniting in staunch opposition to a plan to pump and export more than 16 BILLION gallons of groundwater a year from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer for use in San Antonio.

The plan—being promoted by the V.V. Water Company, Beeville—aims to cash in on water demand facing the San Antonio Water System and other west Texas cities without accounting for the severe impact to both ground- and surface water resources in Val Verde County and the water users who live there: irrigated agriculture, municipal suppliers, local industrial, mining, livestock, and rural domestic users; and wildlife species.

As much as 37 percent of the flow in the lower Rio Grande/Rio Bravo comes from the limestone karst of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer. Lower groundwater levels resulting from such excessive pumping would diminish freshwater springs that feed the Devils River and other water bodies that in turn flow into the international Amistad Reservoir and the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and their tributaries on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

Despite the very real risks, the impacts of such large scale pumping have not been adequately evaluated. Nor have the international implications to the shared water resources of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo been assessed.

On January 8, the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority affirmed a resolution “specifically oppos[ing] the exportation of groundwater from Dimmit and Val Verde Counties . . . until such time as the environmental, social and economic impacts to the RGRWA and the Rio Grande Basin and its tributaries are better understood.”

On January 13, the Asociación Ganadera Local de Acuña (an association of ranchers and cattle raisers in northern Coahuila, Mexico) wrote the San Antonio Water System (View Letter of Protest PDF) advising that its members “join with our neighbors in Val Verde County and downriver in opposing these water marketing and export ventures that will adversely affect our water supplies. We will work with our neighbors, through Mexico's agreements with the United States, to protect our shared water resources and the ecological benefits that the water provides to all of the people in this region.”

These latest protests augment an already escalating criticism from diverse interests, including the Devils River Conservancy, City of Del Rio, City of Laredo, Uvalde County, Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Group, Southwest Water Alliance, numerous Catholic and other faith-based organizations, and many citizens from both sides of the border.

Fact sheet on the issue.