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Water Supply Enhancement Program

Formerly the Texas Brush Control Program

Update: Sunset Review Implementation Status

Introduction

Water will likely be the most limiting natural resource in Texas in the future. The ability to meet future water needs will significantly impact growth and economic well being of this state. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) estimated that brush in Texas uses over 3.5 trillion gallons of water annually. Control of brush presents a viable option for increasing the availability of water allowing the state to meet its future needs.

The benefit of brush control on water supplies is not a new discovery. For example, in the 1960s, landowners in the West Rocky Creek watershed, located about 20 miles west of San Angelo, started applying accelerated range conservation work, eventually treating 30,000 acres of brush. As a result of their work, productive grassland was restored, along with springs and stream flow, which had been dormant for decades.

Chapter 203 of the Texas Agriculture Code

In 1985, Senate Bill 1083, Acts of the 69th Legislature, Regular Session, created the Texas Brush Control 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 Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) is designated as the agency responsible for administering the program and is given authority to delegate responsibility for administering certain portions of the program to local soil and water conservation districts.

In 1986, in accordance with Texas Agriculture Code §203.051, the TSSWCB first prepared and adopted a State Brush Control Plan. The TSSWCB periodically revises the Plan and adopted the most recent revision in September 2009. The State Brush Control Plan includes a comprehensive strategy for managing brush in areas where it is contributing to a substantial water conservation problem and designates areas of critical need in the state in which to implement the brush control program.

Texas Agriculture Code §203.056 requires the TSSWCB to submit an annual report on the Activities of the Brush Control Program to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Lieutenant Governor before January 31 of each year.

Section 203, Subchapter E created a cost share program for brush control, created the Brush Control Fund, limits the cost share rate to 80% of the total cost of a practice, and limits the cost share program to critical areas designated by the TSSWCB and to methods of brush control approved by the TSSWCB. It also establishes criteria for approving applications, setting priorities and contracting for cost sharing.

Brush Control Projects

North Concho River Watershed

Click here for a brochure on the North Concho River Pilot Brush Control Project (PDF, 845 kB)

The purpose of the North Concho River Brush Control Project is to enhance the amount of water flowing from the North Concho River watershed into O.C. Fisher Reservoir. O.C. Fisher is a water supply for the City of San Angelo where water levels have fallen to critical levels.

The North Concho River was selected for this project because of the demonstrable changes in the watershed brought about by brush infestation and the dramatic negative effects of these changes on water yields. Historically, the North Concho River and many of its tributaries flowed year round. Since the early 1960s, the North Concho River has been virtually dry and water flow into O.C. Fisher Reservoir has been reduced to less than 20 percent of its norm.

With 400,000 acres of the 950,000-acre North Concho River watershed currently targeted for brush control by the TSSWCB, drought-weary West Texans have their eyes fixed on this program looking for hope.

It is estimated this 10-year program will make over 65 billion gallons of water available during this period.

Based upon the results of the project's feasibility study, the 76th and 77th Legislatures have appropriated over $16 million to the TSSWCB to initiate this as a pilot brush control project. With these appropriations, over 320,000 acres of brush are expected to be treated.

Upper Colorado River/Twin Buttes Reservoir Watershed

The Upper Colorado River/Twin Buttes Reservoir watershed provides water to the City of San Angelo and much of West Texas. Based on water needs and the results of feasibility studies completed in 2000, the TSSWCB allocated $11.3 million for brush control in the Upper Colorado River/Twin Buttes Reservoir watershed.

It is estimated that with this funding almost 200,000 acres of brush will be treated in this watershed. Estimates indicate that this will result in an additional 75 billion gallons of water becoming available in the Upper Colorado River/Twin Buttes Reservoir watershed over the next 10 years.

Pedernales River Watershed

The Pedernales River is a tributary to Lake Travis, which provides water to the City of Austin and other areas. Based on the needs and results of feasibility studies completed in 2000, the TSSWCB has allocated $3.7 million for brush control in this watershed.

An estimated 45,000 acres will be treated in this watershed with these funds. Projections based on feasibility studies completed in 2000 indicate that this project could result in an additional 110 billion gallons of water becoming available in the Pedernales River watershed over the next 10 years.

Feasibility Studies

Studies for Fiscal Years 2002-2003

The feasibility of using brush control to enhance water yield was studied in the Lake Arrowhead, Lake Brownwood, Lake Fort Phantom Hill, and Lake Palo Pinto watersheds.

  1. Lake Brownwood Watershed
  2. Fort Phantom Hill Reservoir Watershed
  3. Lake Arrowhead Watershed
  4. Palo Pinto Reservoir Watershed
Brush map
Click on the map to see a larger image

The 77th Legislature provided $500,000 to initiate these brush control feasibility studies. These watersheds are identified in the State Brush Control Plan as reservoirs where brush control could enhance water supplies. The users of the water supplies in these watersheds have been hit hard by recent droughts resulting in the institution of water-use restrictions.

These brush control feasibility studies were initiated in September 2001 and completed in November 2002. The final report (PDF, 2.84 MB) was delivered to the Texas Legislature in December 2002.

Local Entities Participating In 2002-2003 Feasibility Studies Development

Organization Watershed
Central Colorado SWCD Brownwood
Archer County SWCD Arrowhead
Palo Pinto SWCD Palo Pinto
Middle Clear Fork SWCD Fort Phantom Hill
Brazos River Authority Fort Phantom Hill and Palo Pinto
Lower Colorado River Authority Brownwood
Red River Authority Arrowhead
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Arrowhead, Brownwood, Fort Phantom Hill, and Palo Pinto

Studies for Fiscal Years 2000-2001

In 1999, the Legislature appropriated $1,000,000 to the TSSWCB to conduct eight brush control feasibility studies. The TSSWCB submitted the feasibility studies for the following basins to the 77th Legislature in January 2001.

  1. Frio River Watershed
  2. Nueces River Watershed
  3. Pedernales River Watershed
  4. Wichita River Watershed
  5. Canadian River Watershed
  6. Middle Concho River Watershed
  7. Upper Colorado River Watershed
  8. Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone
Brush map
Click on the map to see a larger image

The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Water Resources Assessment Team: (1) performed modeling to determine water yields, (2) used economic analysis to determine the feasibility of brush control projects in each watershed, and (3) produced a final report (PDF, 13.43 MB) describing their results. Local river authorities and water districts provided information on historic land use and hydrology of each watershed, assessed changes in land use and hydrology due to brush infestation, and assembled final reports for each watershed for submittal to the 77th Legislature.

Brush control for increased water yield was found to be economically feasible in all watersheds studied.

Local Entities Participating In 2000-2001 Feasibility Studies Development

Organization Watershed
Nueces River Authority Nueces, Frio, and Edwards Aquifer
Lower Colorado River Authority Pedernales
Upper Colorado River Authority Upper Colorado and Middle Concho
Canadian River Municipal Water Authority Canadian
Red River Authority Wichita

Studies 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 950,000-acre 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. The report found that the North Concho River watershed has the potential for increased water yield through brush control.

Program Policies

On July 18, 2013, the State Board approved a revised TSSWCB Policy on Allocation of Grant Funds for the Water Supply Enhancement Program (PDF, 49 kB). This policy was originally approved on March 6, 2013. This policy describes the agency’s Water Supply Enhancement Program 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 July 18, 2013, the State Board approved a TSSWCB Policy on Brush Control Feasibility Studies for the Water Supply Enhancement Program (PDF, 98 kB). 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.

FY2014 Request for Proposals

This request for proposals closed October 18, 2013. However, the information below is retained to assist potential interested cooperating entities in preparing for the next grant cycle.

The TSSWCB is requesting proposals for water supply enhancement projects seeking funding in FY2014 to conduct brush control under the WSEP. Proposed projects should focus on watersheds with a demonstrated water conservation need and where brush control has been shown, using a computer model, to be a feasible strategy to enhance surface and/or ground water supplies. Proposals must be received by 5:00 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 18, 2013, to be considered for funding.

A competitive proposal review process will be used so that the most appropriate and effective projects are selected for funding. On July 18, 2013, the TSSWCB approved a revised Policy on Allocation of Grant Funds for the WSEP, which describes the program purpose and goals, the competitive grant process and proposal ranking criteria, and how the agency will allocate funding.

Project proposals must relate to a water conservation need, based on information in the State Water Plan as adopted by the Texas Water Development Board. Project proposals will be evaluated giving priority to projects that balance the most critical water conservation need with the highest potential water yield.

WSEP funds will only be allocated to projects that have a completed feasibility study that includes a watershed-specific computer-modeled water yield component developed by a person with expertise as described in Texas Agriculture Code §203.053(b). For a watershed to be considered eligible for funds, the feasibility study must demonstrate increases in post-treatment water yield as compared to the pre-treatment conditions.

The proposal submission packet includes the application for proposed water supply enhancement projects, a set of instructions that provides explanations of questions on the form and resources for answering those questions, and a set of guidelines that details project eligibility requirements and provides additional information critical for successful applications.

Partnering Agency Reports

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