Forested watersheds provide consistent and desirable water quality and quantity.
As these lands are degraded or converted to other uses, this ecosystem service is threatened.
The Texas Partnership for Forests & Water is a statewide collaboration that works to increase communication and cooperation across the forest, water, corporate, and conservation sectors. The collaboration is part of a larger regional network, the Southeastern Partnership for Forests and Water, that focuses on strategies to enhance forest watershed management and retention to benefit water resources and local economies throughout the state.
Incentivizing landowners to retain and sustainably manage their forests results in cleaner and more reliable water available for the environment and human consumption. A clean and reliable source of drinking water also helps foster sustainable economic growth and a higher quality of life for residents and visitors of Texas.
The Texas Partnership for Forests & Water has four primary focus areas: watershed assessment, education and outreach, land conservation and stewardship, and
strategic partnerships. Early efforts focused on identifying the most important forestlands for protecting surface drinking water supplies as well as educating
critical audiences on the connection between healthy forests and clean drinking water. In addition to presenting at numerous meetings and conferences, the Partnership
developed several great resources that highlight this connection. Please check out the Resources tab for more information.
While education and outreach is a continual process, recent effort has focused on advancing this concept through land stewardship and strategic partnerships. Member organizations work with private landowners every day to plan and implement land stewardship practices that provide a wide range of benefits that enhance water resources, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage.
The Partnership also supports local funding mechanisms for watershed protection. In 2020, voters overwhelmingly approved a $75 million Hays County Parks Bond. This bond created funding to leverage the Texas State Revolving Fund Loan Program to protect drinking water watersheds, create new parks, and increase green spaces and natural areas throughout the county for flood mitigation. The Partnership is also working with water providers to develop source water protection plans, engage in resiliency initiatives, and support corporate sustainability goals. For more information on these efforts, please check the Success Stories tab.
A geospatial watershed assessment following the USDA Forest Service's Forests to Faucets methodology was conducted to identify priority watersheds. Data on public surface water supplies, forest cover, forest threats, and existing partnerships that could be leveraged were used in the analysis. The assessment identified high priority watersheds in Northeast Texas, Northwest Houston, Southeast Texas, and the Hill Country.
Forest conservation and stewardship is an essential component of the Partnership. Texas A&M Forest Service and other natural resource organizations work with private landowners every day to plan and implement land stewardship practices. There are even financial assistance programs available to landowners to help offset the cost. Best management practices (BMPs) are the principle means of protecting soil and water resources during management activities. These practical, common sense approaches include leaving a buffer zone of trees next to a stream, installing a culvert to cross a waterway, or establishing grass on a road to prevent erosion. Additional information and tools are listed below.
The Partnership has worked with local governments, private landowners, and other partners to implement on the ground demonstration projects. Please click on the links below to find out more information about these exciting projects.
The Texas Partnership for Forests & Water was established at the inaugural Texas Forests and Drinking Water Forum hosted by Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Rural Water Association at Lake Conroe in 2015. At this meeting, 50 professionals in the forest and water sector agreed on the importance of healthy forests to the state’s water supply. There was strong consensus that maintaining or expanding healthy forests in watersheds was a cost effective and appealing strategy to help ensure clean, abundant, supplies of water, and that continued dialogue and collaboration was essential. Since establishment, the Partnership meets regularly to coordinate activities and advance forest and water demonstration projects.