A western adage tells us “whisky is for drinking – water is for fighting over.” And as the population of central Texas continues to swell and the climate continues to warm, the future residents of the Hill Country will face the harsh reality of the critical importance of water to the region.
Aquifer recharge depends on land that is not covered in asphalt and concrete. Undeveloped areas such as the Refuge, that are covered with vegetation and underlain with a labyrinth of caves and fractured limestone, absorb rain and transport water to these critical underground storage zones, rather than hastily usher runoff on its express trip to the Gulf of Mexico.
Some of this “stored” water is returned for the benefit of wildlife, habitat, and people through the many springs dotting the Edwards Plateau.
The role of the Refuge in regard to water is of increasing interest and importance. It is the goal of the Friends to assist the Refuge in identifying and protecting water resources including water quality buffers, wetland buffers, floodplains, water supply areas, riparian vegetation, aquifer recharge and contributing areas and spring buffers.
Much of the Refuge is within the Cow Creek Watershed – a network of many smaller tributary creeks that feed into Cow Creek. This spring-fed, all-season waterway is an important source of water for Lake Travis. The Lower Colorado River Authority, LCRA, carefully monitors the quality and quantity of the water carried within its banks. The effort of the Refuge to maintain land in a natural state (along with the cooperation of adjacent landowners) within the watershed enhances aquifer recharge and water quality.
All over the Highland Lakes area, seeps and springs are drying up and wells are going dry. Water demand to support increased development exceeds the rate of replenishment, and the trend is accelerating. The Cow Creek Watershed is critical for water security of central Texas; the Refuge is critical to maintaining the health of Cow Creek; and the Friends of Balcones support is critical to the mission of the Refuge.