Putting Research into Action to Inform the Future of Water
by Ben Eldredge
Moving forward as the Cibolo Center for Conservation, we certainly stand on decades of conservation work, but our work has just begun. Kendall County is currently the fifth fastest-growing county in the United States. This implies more roadways, utilities, as well as threats to open lands, wildlife habitats, and the sustainability of our water supply.
Where will the water come from to serve all of the growth in Boerne and the surrounding area? This same question is being asked in so many of our treasured Texas Hill Country communities, and the Cibolo Center for Conservation has placed a laser focus on this issue.
For over 32 years, the Cibolo Land & Water Initiative has focused on the protection of water quality and biodiversity throughout the Upper Cibolo Watershed, providing stewardship, education, research and leadership. This work is urgently important because Cibolo Creek provides over one million gallons per day into both the Trinity and Edwards aquifers, which are the predominant sources of drinking water for the greater San Antonio region. Our longstanding research monitoring water quality and quantity, as well as biological indicators of stream health, provide the data we use to inform and support the city, county and private landowners seeking to protect our water sources.
Leveraging our research and knowledge of water stewardship, we encouraged the adoption of stream setback requirements and Low Impact Development in the city of Boerne that are considered some of the best in the state. These requirements safeguard ecosystem services provided by healthy streamside habitats and ensure that trash and pollutants are filtered out of stormwater before reaching Cibolo Creek and the recharge zone.
Creating an Internet of Water
We stand on the principle that water data must be the driver of decisions that ensure the sustainability of our regional water supplies. However, water data is often fragmented and not easily accessible to those who need it to inform practices and policies. To ensure that our community has the information it needs to drive decisions about water, the Cibolo Center for Conservation launched the Boerne Internet of Water initiative in partnership with the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. This initiative will create a Kendall County water data hub and public dashboard that will allow community stakeholders at all levels to access water data to inform decisions for years to come.
The Cibolo has facilitated community focus groups and partnered with the City of Boerne to circulate a survey to ensure that the voices of many stakeholders are feeding into the goals of the Internet of Water initiative and the City of Boerne Water Committee.
The Boerne Internet of Water project has also attracted the attention of the Texas Water Development Board, which has invited our team to inform a new Texas Water Data Initiative. Through this project we are supporting efforts to translate water data so that it informs decision makers and the public at regional and municipal levels, where most water management decisions are made. The Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office has also taken note of the project and is eager to promote our Boerne Internet of Water project throughout the state.
With this momentum, we are ideally positioned to promote Boerne as a community conservation model that embraces innovative solutions to protect water and our other natural resources that provide an enhanced quality of life for people throughout Texas.