More than 75 people came from communities up and down the Llano River to attend the South Llano River Workshop last Saturday in Junction. This diverse group, made up landowners, community leaders, and resource agency personnel, met at the Texas Tech Center to discuss the need for community involvement in issues related to the river.
In his introductory remarks, Junction Mayor James Murr stressed that we need to be as organized as possible to protect our interest and minimize water supply crises in the future.
Tyson Broad, a resident of Llano and consultant to Environmental Defense Fund, the sponsor of the workshop, told the group, “the South Llano River and its springs have never ceased to flow in recorded history, but increased population growth in the cities, coupled with drought, could place increased pressures on the river.
“Few people downstream realize the importance spring fed rivers like the Llano and the San Saba have to the water supply of central Texas. During this dry period right now, 88% of all the water into the Highland Lakes is coming from these two spring-fed rivers. We need to be educating people about the importance of this resource and finding potential avenues to increase land stewardship.”
David Langford of the Texas Wildlife Association told the group that research is showing that under the right conditions, clearing 5-10 acres of Ashe juniper in places like the Edwards Plateau, can increase water yields by 1 acre-foot, or about 325,000 gallons. But such increases require proper and on-going management; the juniper will come back if you do not stay on top of it. While there is some funding for initial brush clearing efforts, there is no funding for on-going maintenance.
“People in Austin, including the Legislature, do not have any idea that their water supply comes from rivers like the Llano and that it originated as rain on a landowners land,” said Langford. “Landowners are not compensated for their efforts to increase this water supply, but downstream entities profit from that water.”
The workshop participants offered many of their own concerns about the river. These included increased trash and vandalism along the riverbanks, decreased flows in smaller tributary streams, more wells being drilled on smaller land tracts, and the potential for groundwater exports from the area. Many agreed that efforts should begin to better educate school children, new landowners, tourists, downstream water users, and legislators about the importance of the river.
Many of the workshop participants agreed to meet again in January to start addressing some of the concerns and ideas raised Saturday. One of to initial tasks will be to start preparing educational materials about the river.
Caroline Runge, manager of the Menard County Underground Water District and facilitator for the workshop, concluded, “In West Texas, when we recognize problems, we take action.”
To find out more information about the South Llano River Project and Saturday’s workshop, visit: www.texaswatermatters.org/southllanoriver.htm.