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Dedicated water protects estuaries at Mad Island Marsh Preserve Posted on August 09, 2022


Transcript 

Kyle Garmany - Water & Agriculture Program Director, The Nature Conservancy in Texas

Things are pretty bad right now. We're in a rough drought, and often times there's plenty of freshwater inflow making it into these estuaries. It's really in those periods when we're in droughts or when low-flow conditions are persisting that we see elevated salinities and a decline in overall habitat conditions. And that's a threat to the native populations here, it reduces the overall forage for migratory birds as well as native shore and waterfowl. You know, Mad Island Marsh Preserve, we started this project back in 1989 with the acquisition of the property. For the past 30 years, we've been protecting this place because it's an important spot for native bird populations and fish and wildlife habitat but also for those species that are migrating through on their journey from South America back north. And so, we've been working on similar efforts to improve overall wetland conditions here. The difference between those projects and the way that we're applying the water now is we're really taking a focused approach and trying to evaluate the benefits that really targeted freshwater deliveries into the estuary system can provide.

Dr. Quinn McColly - Conservation Finance Director, Texas Water Trade

Texas Water Trade is an Austin-based nonprofit. We seek to enable and facilitate water transactions that can benefit the environment. In this particular case, we have a fund that is specifically designated to pay for these water transactions. If we can take delivery of enough water and target it, and put it at the right place at the right time, we may be able to offer refugia to all the critters that live here so that they may rebound out of that drought condition more quickly than they would without our supplemental help. 

Kyle Garmany - Water & Agriculture Program Director, The Nature Conservancy in Texas

We couldn't do this without our partners, including Texas Water Trade and the Water Development Board. The Board has just been essential in this effort and in providing technical guidance for us—staff, time, resources. And we look forward to continuing to work with them over the coming months to pull the data down and to evaluate it, and understand what impacts the project is having.

Kevin De Santiago – Hydrologist, Texas Water Development Board

What we're doing is we are providing the water quality instruments to measure what is the effect of introducing this fresh water into this area and see how it influences water quality. When we leave our instruments out in the water for any period of time, the life in the estuary starts to kind of gravitate towards it. It takes residence in or on the sensors itself. This starts to, kind of, interfere with the quality of our data. So, we have to go out periodically to swap the instruments with fresh new instruments. So, we will go out there, we'll make the swap, put the fresh new instruments on the poles so that they can continue the data collection. And we will take those sonds back with us to the lab. We can see how well that sensor was performing while it was out here collecting data. If the salinities do decrease during our study period, then we will know that the water that was introduced was sufficient to make a difference in this area. Dedicating water to the estuary ensures that you will have a healthy estuary, which in turn supports healthy coastal communities who rely on the fish and the crab and the birds, not only as part of their industries, recreational and commercial fisheries, but as a large part of their culture.

Kyle Garmany - Water & Agriculture Program Director, The Nature Conservancy in Texas

This is a relative small amount of water compared to the overall estuary. But we're hoping that through the demonstration that a small amount of water can have an impact, that then we can then understand what the larger volume of water is that's necessary to really create the prescription of the quantity of water that's necessary for the health of the estuary.

Dr. Quinn McColly - Conservation Finance Director, Texas Water Trade 

The environmental problems we face are large. They are too large for any individual to try and tackle by themselves. It is only through the power of a team and through the power of many teams that may be spread across multiple organizations that we have a hope of really addressing these problems head on and really making headway so that our generation and the next generation can enjoy all this natural beauty around us.

This article is posted in Technology / Drought / Conservation .