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Texas Environmental Flows Initiative innovates sustainable water usage, honored by White House Water Summit

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Photo by: Cassandria Alvarado | Staff Photographer
A San Marcos local kayaks down the San Marcos River near Sewell Park on March 29.

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State and initiative partners were honored by the the White House Water Summit for their innovation in securing sustainable water resources.

The Meadows Center was recognized for committing to the development of the foundational science and market analysis to initiate a water-transaction market in Texas for the benefit of bays and estuaries.

Sharlene Leurig, Texas Environmental Flows program director, makes sure the scientists, legal experts and all other people looking to help get the work they need to reach their goal of finding and purchasing water for the environment in Texas.

The Meadows Center is partnered with Harte Research Institute Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“It’s a super complex project that requires a lot of expertise so we are fortunate to have a big partnership,” Leurig said.

Over the next two years, the initiative will execute at least one significant water transaction with demonstrable benefit to ecological resources injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Groundwork will also be laid for market development in three bay systems whose ecological health and commercial fishing productivity are endangered by declining freshwater inflows.

“This project is a way of demonstrating that buyers and sellers can come together and meet the needs through the river system,” Leurig said.

The White House Water Summit highlights the importance of implementing innovative strategies for sustaining water when and where it’s needed in light of increasing climate change and population. These strategies lie in the hands of the federal government, state and people in the community.

Climate change affects the nation’s water supplies whether it occurs in floods, droughts or any other water extreme, said Emily Warren, associate director of The Meadows Center.

“Access to water is always going to be our human dilemma,” Warren said.

The basis of environmental flows is ensuring there is water in our system, which serves a purpose for species in streams as well as when it empties into the bays and estuaries.

Leurig said she is grateful to be part of a community that recognizes the need for water to flow from rivers and sustain a healthy ecosystem.