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In Brief: Drought triggers Edwards Aquifer region's habitat conservation plan 'Provision M'

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
August 12, 2014

Lower flows in the San Marcos Springs caused by the ongoing drought have stopped work projects in San Marcos and at Texas State University associated with the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) until officials can ensure no damage is being done to endangered species or their habitats.

According to Provision M of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Incidental Take Permit, work near the springs must stop when flow at the San Marcos Springs reaches 120 cubic feet per second (cfs). Activities that disturb habitat or the listed species are no longer covered when flows drop below these levels.

"While we can’t control the weather, we can control how we prepare for these extremely dry periods, and that’s what the HCP is all about," said Tom Taggart, HCP implementing committee chairman. "We know the springs lose flow and water levels across the Edwards Aquifer can drop significantly during prolonged droughts. The good news is that the region has done a very good job of coming together to help us minimize the impact as much as possible."

Current HCP work includes:

  • Texas Wild Rice restoration and protection through State Scientific Areas in San Marcos;
  • A sediment removal program to take out excess erosion materials that could cover up habitats in San Marcos Springs;
  • Vegetation restoration efforts to remove exotic vegetation and replace with native vegetation that represents prime habitat for the species during lower flows in San Marcos Springs.

"Due to the HCP programs implemented in 2013, the Edwards Aquifer, spring flows, endangered species and their habitats have a fighting chance to weather this current drought," said Taggart. "Overall, the HCP regional stakeholder efforts are designed to strike the right balance in protecting spring flows, ensuring all water users have the water they need each day and preserving the Edwards Aquifer as a resource."

In addition to new HCP science being applied to Edwards Aquifer protection, residents and businesses are encouraged to continue their water conservation efforts as well. Make sure all water leaks are repaired, and reduce indoor water use by using high efficiency fixtures and appliances. Outdoors, only water landscapes when it is needed, and make sure to follow local Critical Period watering guidelines.