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The Endangered Springflow Act: How the Endangered Species Act Influences Groundwater Law and Protects Springflow in Texas

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Document pages: 24 pages

Abstract: Many springs in Texas are in danger of drying up as two contradictory forces – drought and development – collide. As groundwater from an aquifer is pumped for irrigation, municipal, or industrial use, the water level in the aquifer is lowered and the result is decreased flow from springs at the surface. The lack of recharge to the aquifer caused by drought exacerbates the decline in groundwater levels and diminished springflow. Reductions in springflow are problematic because springs sustain numerous creeks and rivers, especially during drought when surface runoff from rainfall is low. As springflow decreases, so does the flow of surface water, degrading aquatic habitats, threatening consumptive uses of water, interfering with recreational activities, and harming water quality. While the Texas State Water Plan indicates that water management strategies will focus on surface water in the future, reliance on groundwater supplies, including brackish sources, to support population growth, agriculture, and a booming oil and gas industry will continue. When an endangered species is present in a spring, can the Endangered Species Act influence groundwater management and protect springflow? What regulatory tools can a groundwater conservation district utilize to protect springflow to ensure the long-term survival of rare species? What potential legal vulnerabilities do groundwater districts face if they fail to do so? What options are available under the ESA for the districts to obtain authorization for unavoidable harm to the species? In this paper, we explore the significant and developing relationship between groundwater management and endangered species protection.

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