Region M - Rio Grande
2001 Regional Water Plan Overview
Basic Plan Facts
- Population is projected to increase 175 percent between 2000 and 2050
- Total capital cost of proposed water supply measures: $930 million
- One new reservoir, the Brownsville Weir, is proposed
What's at Issue?
Water issues in this region are extremely complicated. The region's main source of water, the Rio Grande River, is over appropriated Ñ meaning that there is more water promised through permits than there is actual water available. This region also shares this main source of water, and an international border, with Mexico.
The Region M plan is a good example of taking water conservation seriously. In the initial drafts of the 2001 regional plan, all the future needs of the region were met through measures such as conservation, acquisition (and conversion to municipal use) of agricultural rights to the Rio Grande, the use of reclaimed wastewater, and further development of groundwater sources. Unfortunately, the final plan included the Brownsville Weir as a proposed strategy. This project will limit the freshwater inflows from the Rio Grande into the Gulf, will restrict upstream movement of fish, and most importantly is not needed to meet projected demands.
Here are some of the items the Region M Planning Group must address.
Conservation and Drought Management
For conservation and drought management, the plan needs to...
- Continue to recommend both municipal and agricultural water conservation measures.
- Develop a Drought Management Plan for the region. The regional plan currently relies on the operation of the Amistad-Falcon Reservoir system to provide the means for initiating drought response measures.
To secure the protection of flows for fish and wildlife, the plan needs to...
- Evaluate alternative water supply strategies for effects on instream flows and inflow to the mouth of the Rio Grande and the Arroyo Colorado. This is especially important with regard to the Brownsville Weir. In addition, the plan must discuss how instream flows are affected by current projects and existing water permits.
- Discuss the amount of water needed to fulfill environmental water demands in the Rio Grande and tributary streams, and the coastal waters. Based on such discussions, the plan needs to account for these demands in their planning efforts.
- Designate stream segments in the region that meet the criteria as having "unique ecological value". No segments were designated in the 2001 regional plan. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends 4 segments for designation in this region.
To ensure that only the most economically sound water supply strategies are implemented, the plan needs to...
- Compare the costs and benefits of the supply alternatives in a consistent and reasonable manner. This is especially important in evaluating the economic viability of the Brownsville Weir.
The National Wildlife Federation analyzed the initially prepared plan using their Principles for an Environmentally Sound Regional Water Plan. Please contact us for more information about this analysis.