Stakeholder Engagement in Water Resource Decisions in Texas

Authors: Robert E. Mace*, Texas State University - San Marcos
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Sustainability Science, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: water, stakeholders, Texas
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 47
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

When the drought of 1996 descended upon Texas after two decades of cooler-than-normal and wetter-than-normal conditions, water providers and the legislature did not like what they saw in the state water plan. In response, the legislature changed the planning process from a top-down, technocratic exercise to a bottom-up, stakeholder-driven process. Stakeholders and the legislature so favorably received this approach that decisionmakers have used stakeholder processes for groundwater resource planning, flood planning, the development of numerical groundwater flow models, the assessment of environmental flows, and the development of a habitat conservation plan for the Edwards Aquifer. In the latter two processes, the legislature specified a process through which scientists made recommendations based solely on the science, stakeholders made recommendations balancing the science with human needs, and the regulator made the final decision. For water planning, the state agency polices the numbers to ensure that they are realistic, but regional water planning groups make decisions on projects to meet future water needs. Inspired by stakeholder-driven processes, the public expects that water decisions include a stakeholder process. For example, in developing its 100-year water plan, the City of Austin included input from a councilmember appointed task force. This latter effort strove to bring under-represented communities to the stakeholder but ultimately could not, suggesting that the current stakeholder process model could use improvement.

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