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Incorporating Climate Change Science into the Endangered Species Act Recovery Implementation Program for the Texas Edwards Aquifer. The Collaborative Approach of Recovery Implementation Programs. Todd Votteler, Ph.D. Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (800) 413-4130 Outline.

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Incorporating Climate Change Science into the Endangered Species Act Recovery Implementation Program for the Texas Edwards Aquifer

The Collaborative Approach of Recovery Implementation Programs

Todd Votteler, Ph.D.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority

(800) 413-4130

  • The Endangered Species Act
  • The Edwards Aquifer Region: A Unique and Complicated Ecosystem
  • State – Federal Challenges
  • Climate Change
  • Tree-Ring Research

The Edwards Aquifer-San Antonio Segment (Karst Aquifer)

  • Irrigation & recharge out West
  • San Antonio in the Center
  • Major Springs in the East

San Antonio Bay



The Guadalupe River is the Primary Source

of Freshwater Inflows to San Antonio Bay…

Brown Shrimp

Blue Crab





a few facts
A Few Facts
  • San Antonio’s population is nearly 2 million, up from 200,000 in 1940.
  • Population of Texas Projected to Double by 2050.
  • 95% of San Antonio’s water supply comes from the Edwards Aquifer.
  • Edwards Aquifer springs provide 25% of the flow in the Guadalupe River.
  • During droughts like 2005-2006 and 2008-2009 as much 80% of the flow in the Guadalupe River comes from the springs.
Bad Times1956,Drought of Record.Fountain Darters Wiped Out at Comal Springs.Texas Begins Water Planning.
what is a recovery implementation program
What is a Recovery Implementation Program?
  • Recovery Implementation Programs (RIP) are an option under the Endangered Species Act that bring together a broad group of stakeholders including Federal, State, and private interests to work together to recover endangered species.
  • Through a RIP, federal funds can be passed through a federal agency to accomplish Program goals.
  • RIPs are a potential solution for intractable Endangered Species Act issues.
typical activities
Typical Activities
  • Habitat restoration
  • Captive propagation and augmentation
  • Research & monitoring
  • Development of flow recommendations
  • Management of non-native species
  • Education, and public involvement
edwards aquifer
Edwards Aquifer
  • The goal is to recover federally listed species dependent on the Edwards Aquifer while water development proceeds in compliance with all applicable Federal and State laws.
recovery implementation program for the edwards aquifer
Recovery Implementation Program for the Edwards Aquifer
  • The Texas Legislature created a RIP process in May 2007.
  • The Texas Legislature’s RIP process may set a precedent for other states:
    • Who governs the process;
    • What questions are considered; and
    • The schedule and other guidelines
  • Participants include state agencies, river authorities, groundwater districts, cities, industries, farmers, environmental organizations and others.
climate change the edwards
Loaiciga et al (1996) identified Edwards as one of the most vulnerable regional watersheds to climate change

Region is dependent on aquifer

Strong climate & hydrology link

Climate record shows large variability

Groundwater pumping increasing

Aquifer supports habitats & species facing extinction

Water institutions mired in uncertainty

“If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought or the Dust Bowl and the 1950s droughts will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades (Seager et al, 2007).”

Climate Change & the Edwards
texas water planning is based on the drought of record
Texas Water Planning is Based on the Drought of Record
  • Drought of Record is when natural hydrological conditions provided the least amount of water supply.
  • For much of Texas the Drought of Record is drought from 1947 to 1957.
  • State water plan must be based on the Drought of Record.
will climate change be incorporated into the edwards rip
The answer depends on the term of the Incidental Take Permit resulting from the RIP.

If the term of the Incidental Take Permit is less than 15 years, then climate change might not be considered.

However, if the term is less than 25 years is the process worth the effort?

This question faces those developing HCPs across the country.

Will Climate Change be Incorporated into the Edwards RIP?
will climate change be incorporated into the edwards rip1
Texas lawmakers and water managers are skeptical about climate change.

Is there another way to incorporate climate variability into the RIP without focusing on climate change?

Possibly, by focusing on historical variability.

Water managers rely upon historical drought and flood information.

Will Climate Change be Incorporated into the Edwards RIP?
tree ring study
Tree-Ring Study
  • Trees produce a narrow growth ring under drought conditions and a wider ring under normal and wet conditions.
  • Chronologies are based on small core samples extracted from living trees & cross-sections cut from dead logs.
  • The tree-ring record is compared to Weather Service climatic data to find out the seasonal response of the trees.
objectives for tree ring study
Objectives for Tree-Ring Study
  • Less is known about Texas in this field than Eastern & Western US or Mexico.
  • Local chronologies better than distant chronologies.
  • We are focusing on baldcypress at several locations in south-central Texas.
  • We are hoping to produce a 500 year chronology for south-central Texas.
  • Study Participants:
    • Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority
    • University of Arkansas, Tree-Ring Lab
    • University of Texas, School of Geosciences
    • Texas Forest Service
    • Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
    • Individual Landowners
  • The Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Plan is likely to provide a model that other states will follow to deal with their intractable Endangered Species Act disputes.
  • If the region focuses on preparing for decade long droughts identified in the tree-ring study will the process satisfy a requirement that the plan account for climate change?
previous tree ring study for edwards aquifer region 1537 1995
Previous Tree-Ring Study for Edwards Aquifer Region; 1537-1995

“The 1950s drought was very bad, even when viewed in a long-term context. The reconstructions also indicate that there may have been periods when drought was more protracted and the impact might have been considerably worse. It would appear unwise for civil authorities to assume that the 1950s drought represents the worst case scenario to be used for planning purposes in water resources management in the South Central and Edwards Plateau climate divisions of Texas.”

why this rip unique
Why this RIP Unique
  • First RIP fully based on an HCP.
  • First RIP where federal water management is not part of the program.
  • First RIP developed to address aquifer management.
  • First RIP in a private lands state.
  • First RIP to include a coastal/estuary ecosystem in the project area.
  • First RIP mandated in state legislation.
tree ring chronologies
Tree-Ring Chronologies
  • 2 Baldcypress: LA: 996 –1988; Eastern TX: 1254 –1993
  • 4 Douglas-fir: 2 TX: 1537–1992, 1473 –1992; 2 NM: 1362–1989, 137BC–1992
  • 1 NM ponderosa pine: 1391–1987
  • 3 NM Pinyon pine: 1410 –1987; 1411–1972; 1478 –1972
  • 6 post oak: 3 from living trees, 3 from historic buildings; 1648 –1995
current water rip programs
Current Water RIP Programs
  • Middle Rio Grande ESA Collaborative Program
  • Upper Colorado RIP
  • San Juan RIP
  • Platte River Endangered Species Partnership
  • Lower Colorado Multi-species Conservation Program
  • June Sucker RIP