Scarcity and competition for water have made sound water planning and management increasingly important. The demand for water in Texas is expected to increase by about 22%, to a demand of nearly 22M ac‐ft in 2060; while existing water supplies are projected to decrease by about 10%, to just over 15M ac‐ft. With Texas’ population expected to grow by 82% in the next 50 years, the availability of water supplies is essential for not only the Texans of today but also for those of tomorrow (2012 State Water Plan, Texas Water Development Board).
Noxious brush, detrimental to water conservation, has invaded millions of acres of rangeland and riparian areas in Texas, reducing or eliminating stream flow and aquifer recharge through interception of rainfall and increased evapotranspiration. Brush control has the potential to enhance water yield, conserve water lost to evapotranspiration, recharge groundwater and aquifers, enhance spring and stream flows, improve soil health, restore native wildlife habitat by improving rangeland, improve livestock grazing distribution, protect water quality and reduce soil erosion, aid in wildfire suppression by reducing hazardous fuels, and manage invasive species.
In order to help meet the State’s critical water conservation needs and ensure availability of public water supplies, in 2011 the 82nd Texas Legislature established the Water Supply Enhancement Program (WSEP) administered by the TSSWCB, with the purpose of increasing available surface and ground water through the targeted control of brush species that are detrimental to water conservation (e.g., juniper, mesquite, saltcedar).
The TSSWCB collaborates with SWCDs, and other local, regional, state, and federal agencies to identify watersheds across the state where it is feasible to implement brush control in order to enhance public water supplies. The TSSWCB uses a competitive grant process to rank feasible projects and allocate WSEP grant funds, giving priority to projects that balance the most critical water conservation need of municipal water user groups with the highest projected water yield from brush control.
In watersheds where WSEP grant funds have been allocated, the TSSWCB works through SWCDs to deliver technical assistance to landowners in order to implement brush control activities for water supply enhancement. A 10-year resource management plan is developed for each property enrolled in the WSEP which describes the brush control activities to be implemented, follow-up treatment requirements, brush density to be maintained after treatment, and supporting practices to be implemented including livestock grazing management, wildlife habitat management, and erosion control measures (e.g., buffers, filter strips, reseeding). Cost-share assistance is provided through the WSEP to landowners implementing brush control activities on eligible acres.
Program Statute - Texas Agriculture Code, Chapter 203
In 1985, the 69th Texas Legislature created the Texas Brush Control Program (Senate Bill 1083) and designated the TSSWCB as the agency responsible for administering the Program. The goal of this legislation, which was authored by Senator Bill Sims of San Angelo, was to enhance the State's water resources through selective control of brush species. This statute was codified in Chapter 203 of the Texas Agriculture Code. The TSSWCB was given authority to delegate responsibility for administering certain portions of the Brush Control Program to local SWCDs.
In 1986, in accordance with Texas Agriculture Code §203.051, the TSSWCB first prepared and adopted a State Brush Control Plan, now known as the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan. The TSSWCB periodically revises the Plan and adopted the most recent revision in July 2014. The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan serves as the State's comprehensive strategy for managing brush in all areas of the state where brush is contributing to a substantial water conservation problem.
The Brush Control Program was unfunded until 1999, when the 76th Texas Legislature appropriated funds to implement the Brush Control Program. TSSWCB was appropriated funds for 12 fiscal years (2000-2011) to carry-out the Brush Control Program.
Texas Agriculture Code §203.056 requires the TSSWCB to submit an annual report on the activities of the Program to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Lieutenant Governor before January 31 of each year.
Texas Agriculture Code, Chapter 203, Subchapter E, created a cost-share program for brush control, limited the cost-share rate to 70% of the total cost of a practice, and limited the cost-share program to critical areas designated by the TSSWCB and to methods of brush control approved by the TSSWCB. The Subchapter also established criteria for approving applications, setting priorities, and contracting for cost-sharing.
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission conducted a review of the TSSWCB in 2009-2011. During this process the Sunset Commission adopted recommendations to address several issues identified with agency programs. As a result of the Sunset Commission’s recommendations for improving the program, in 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1808 which delineated major changes to TSSWCB’s programs, including the elimination of the Texas Brush Control Program effective September 2011. House Bill 1808 established a new program for the agency, the WSEP, with the purpose of increasing available surface and ground water through the targeted control of brush species that are detrimental to water conservation.
Program Rules – Texas Administrative Code, Title 31, Chapter 517, Subchapter B
Texas Agriculture Code §203.012 authorizes the TSSWCB to adopt reasonable rules necessary to carry out the WSEP.
On March 22, 2012, the State Board adopted a comprehensive revision to 31 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 517, Subchapter B, transitioning the rules from the Brush Control Program to the WSEP.
Further amendments to the rules were adopted by the State Board on July 28, 2014 to continue implementing provisions of House Bill 1808 and ensure consistency with the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan and other programmatic policies and documents.
State Water Supply Enhancement Plan
In accordance with Texas Agriculture Code §203.051, the TSSWCB must prepare and adopt the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan which serves as the State’s comprehensive strategy for managing brush in all areas of the state where brush is contributing to a substantial water conservation problem.
The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan, formerly the State Brush Control Plan, was updated and revised in order to continue implementing provisions of House Bill 1808 passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature. In order to help meet the State's critical water conservation needs and ensure availability of public water supplies, the State Board adopted the current State Water Supply Enhancement Plan.
The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan also serves as the programmatic guidance for the TSSWCB’s WSEP. The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan documents the goals, processes, and results the TSSWCB has established for the WSEP, including goals describing the intended use of a water supply enhanced by the WSEP and the populations that the WSEP will target. The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan discusses the competitive grant process, the proposal ranking criteria, factors that must be considered in a feasibility study, the geospatial analysis methodology for prioritizing acreage for brush control, how the agency will allocate funding, priority watersheds across the state for water supply enhancement and brush control, how success for the WSEP will be assessed and reported, and how overall water yield will be projected and tracked.
In prioritizing water supply enhancement projects for funding, the TSSWCB must consider the need for conservation of water resources within the territory of a proposed project, based on the State Water Plan as adopted by the Texas Water Development Board. The TSSWCB also considers whether or not a Regional Water Planning Group has identified brush control as a water management strategy in the State Water Plan.
The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan was last updated and approved by the State Board in January 2017.
Stakeholder Committee and Science Advisory Committee
In order to provide recommendations to the agency and guide the decisions of the State Board in implementing the Legislative directives for the WSEP (i.e., provisions of HB 1808, 82nd Legislature), the TSSWCB established a Stakeholder Committee of program beneficiaries and a Science Advisory Committee of technical experts. Since early 2012, TSSWCB has worked with these two Committees to discuss how best to implement changes to the WSEP. Both Committees have worked hard to ensure that the best available science is being used by the TSSWCB to direct State funds to those areas where the positive impacts of brush management to enhance public water supplies can best be realized.
The Stakeholder Committee has provided recommendations for WSEP goals, the proposal ranking process, and the ranking index. The Stakeholder Committee is currently comprised of:
- Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts - Jule Richmond
- Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association - Jason Skaggs
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - vacant
- Texas Tech University - Dr. Ken Rainwater
- Texas Water Development Board - Dr. Robert Mace
The Science Advisory Committee has provided recommendations regarding requirements for feasibility studies and computer models, and the method for prioritizing acreage for brush control. The Science Advisory Committee is currently comprised of:
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - vacant
- Texas Department of Agriculture - Dr. David Villarreal
- Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research at Tarleton State University - Dr. Larry Hauck
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Chad Norris (Anne Rogers, alternate)
- Texas Tech University - Dr. Ken Rainwater (Dr. Tom Arsuffi, alternate)
- Texas Water Development Board - Dr. Carla Guthrie (Dr. Yujuin Yang, alternate)
- USDA Agricultural Research Service - Dr. Mike White
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Dr. Ken Spaeth (Kristy Oates, alternate)
- U.S. Geological Survey - Dr. George Ozuna (Dr. Ryan Banta, alternate)
Feasibility Studies and Project Watersheds for Brush Control
Since 1998, TSSWCB, in cooperation with many partnering entities, has been conducting assessments of the feasibility of conducting brush control for water supply enhancement in watersheds across Texas. These feasibility studies estimate the potential water yield enhanced through brush control. For a watershed to be considered eligible for allocation of WSEP cost-share funds, a feasibility study must demonstrate increases in projected post-treatment water yield as compared to the pre-treatment conditions.
Feasibility Studies conducted and published, and the reports accepted by the TSSWCB as established WSEP Project Watersheds, include:
- Lake Alan Henry (impounds South Fork Double Mountain Fork Brazos River)
- Lake Arrowhead
- Lake Brownwood
- Upper Guadalupe River above Canyon Lake
- Gonzales County [Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer Recharge Zone and Guadalupe River]
- Frio River above Choke Canyon Reservoir
- Nueces River above Lake Corpus Christi [above confluence Frio River]
- Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone over
- Frio River
- Hondo Creek
- Medina River
- Upper Nueces River
- Sabinal River
- Seco Creek
- North Concho River [O.C. Fisher Lake]
- O.H. Ivie Reservoir (Lake Basin)
- O.H. Ivie Reservoir (Watershed) [Upper Colorado River and Concho River]
- Wichita River above Lake Kemp
- Canadian River above Lake Meredith
- Palo Pinto Reservoir
- Fort Phantom Hill Reservoir
- E.V. Spence Reservoir [Upper Colorado River]
- Lake J.B. Thomas [Upper Colorado River]
- Pedernales River [Lake Travis]
- Twin Buttes Reservoir [including Lake Nasworthy]
- Upper Llano River
Feasibility Studies In Progress, being conducted either with TSSWCB WSEP funding or collaboratively funded by third-parties, include:
- Victoria and Goliad Counties, including lower San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers
- Wilson, Karnes, and Refugio Counties (third-party funding; San Antonio River Authority)
- Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone over Upper Nueces River (carrizo cane specific) (third-party funding; Nueces River Authority and Edwards Aquifer Authority)
The following are not feasibility studies, per se; rather, these studies, funded by TSSWCB, are critical to the WSEP and will contribute to the overall understanding of water supply enhancement through brush control:
- Linking Empirical Data on Brush Management from Honey Creek State Natural Area to the Upper Guadalupe River Feasibility Study Model (U.S. Geological Survey)
- Effects of Huisache Removal on Evapotranspiration in South Central Texas at McFaddin Ranch in Victoria County (U.S. Geological Survey)
Proposed Feasibility Studies to be considered in the future include:
- Ballinger City Lake (saltcedar specific)
- Medina River over Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone
- Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer Recharge Zone in Burleson, Lee, Milam, and Williamson Counties
- Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer Recharge Zone in Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties
- DeWitt County, including lower Guadalupe River and Lavaca River
- Hubbard Creek Reservoir (saltcedar specific)
- Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir (impounds Lampasas River)
- Upper Brazos River above Possum Kingdom Reservoir (saltcedar specific)
- Upper Blanco River over Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone
- Upper Cibolo Creek over Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone
- Lake Buchanan, including San Saba River, Brady Creek, and lower Pecan Bayou
- Lake LBJ, primarily Llano River below confluence of South and North Llano Rivers
- Lake Whitney, including Steele Creek
- White River Reservoir (saltcedar specific)
- Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area, Travis County portion only
- Mackenzie Reservoir
- Trinity Aquifer Recharge Zone in Hood, Montague, Parker, and Wise Counties
Studies Completed for Fiscal Years 2002-2003
The feasibility of using brush control to enhance water yield was studied in the Lake Arrowhead, Lake Brownwood, Fort Phantom Hill Reservoir, and Palo Pinto Reservoir watersheds. The 77th Texas Legislature provided $500,000 to initiate these brush control feasibility studies in September 2001; they were completed in November 2002. The final report (TR-207) was delivered to the Texas Legislature in December 2002.
Studies Completed for Fiscal Years 2000-2001
In 1999, the Texas Legislature appropriated $1,000,000 to the TSSWCB to conduct eight brush control feasibility studies. The TSSWCB submitted these feasibility studies to the 77th Texas Legislature in January 2001. The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Water Resources Assessment Team performed modeling to determine water yields and used economic analysis to determine the feasibility of brush control projects in each watershed. The final report (TR-182) describes the results. Local river authorities and water districts provided information on historic land use and hydrology of each watershed and assessed changes in land use and hydrology due to brush infestation.
Studies Completed for Fiscal Years 1998-1999
In 1998, a year-long study was completed on the North Concho River watershed to determine potential water yield from a comprehensive brush control program throughout the watershed. The study was funded with a grant from the Texas Water Development Board and conducted by the TSSWCB, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Upper Colorado River Authority.
North Concho River Pilot Brush Control Project
Beginning in 1999, the Texas Legislature directed the TSSWCB to begin implementing the Texas Brush Control Program in the North Concho River watershed. This pilot brush control project was appropriated $16 million in fiscal years 2000-2003. Many of the changes implemented in the Program due to House Bill 1808 stem from lessons learned during the North Concho River pilot brush control project.
On May 15, 2014, the State Board approved a revised Policy on Allocation of Grant Funds for the WSEP. This policy was originally approved on March 6, 2013 and revised on July 18, 2013. This policy describes the agency’s WSEP purpose and goals, the competitive grant process and proposal ranking criteria, factors that must be considered in a feasibility study, the geospatial analysis methodology for prioritizing acreage for brush control, and how the agency will allocate funding.
On May 15, 2014, the State Board approved a revised Policy on Brush Control Feasibility Studies for the WSEP. This policy was originally approved on July 18, 2013. This policy describes the requirements for computer modeling for water yield predictions in feasibility studies and the process to review applications for funding to conduct new feasibility studies.
On May 15, 2014, the State Board approved a Policy on Funding Technical Assistance for Brush Control through SWCDs for the WSEP (PDF, 38 kB). In order to maximize the effective and efficient use of WSEP grant funds, this policy describes the options SWCDs have for providing technical assistance to landowners and administering the cost-share program.
These three Policies were incorporated into the Program Rules (31 TAC Chapter 517, Subchapter B) and the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan.