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West Texas Water Symposium slated for April 22

April 13th, 2017 under Public Notices

ALPINE — The Big Bend Conservation Alliance is hosting the West Texas Water Symposium on Saturday, April 22, from 8am to 6pm at the Granada Theater in Alpine.

The symposium will be followed by a field trip to springs and wetlands in the Balmorhea area with expert guides on Sunday, April 23. Both events are free.

The West Texas Water Symposium will bring together regional water experts to explain where our water comes from and the laws and policies that govern its use.

“Everyone will agree that water is essential for life anywhere and especially in our desert region, where rainfall averages only 10 to 14 inches,” BBCA President Trey Gerfers said. “Through this symposium, we hope West Texans will be able to make more informed decisions about our water and our future. We have invited a wide range of speakers, who will share their expertise and hopefully help us see the ‘Big


The symposium’s morning presentations will focus on science. Hydrogeologist Kevin Urbanczyk of Sul Ross State University’s Rio Grande Research Center will give an introduction to surface water and groundwater in our region. Hydrogeologist Jack Sharp from University of Texas at Austin will delve into threats to the Balmorhea springs complex. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Sarah Robertson will present a case study of her agency’s holistic approach to conserving the Devils River.

Bonnie Warnock, Sul Ross professor of Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Ranching, will conclude the morning with a session about the connections between land management and water.

In the afternoon, the symposium’s focus will shift to water law, policy, and management.

Amy Hardberger, an environmental law professor from St. Mary’s University, will give an introduction to Texas groundwater law. Sharlene Leurig from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment will discuss how to keep Texas rivers flowing, as well as legal connections and divisions between groundwater and surface water.

Sarah Rountree Schlessinger, executive director of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts, will explain what groundwater conservation districts are and why they matter. Schlessinger will also moderate a panel discussion with groundwater conservation district managers from across West Texas, who will discuss their district’s priorities and challenges and explain how the public can best get involved in groundwater management.

The afternoon will wrap up with an introduction to regional water managers in attendance, as well as a half-hour documentary from Sharlene Leurig’s multimedia project, Our Desired Future.

“BBCA takes the ‘alliance’ portion of our name seriously,” said Matt Lara, BBCA secretary and acting executive director. “We hope that, along with being an educational opportunity for the community, this symposium helps to build stronger partnerships in the region around the critical issue of water. We know that there are already many incredible resources in the region and state for water knowledge. Our mission is to help get that information out to the people who rely on these water resources most.”

“BBCA will do everything we can to make sure this symposium is the first of many such gatherings,” Gerfers said. “If we can reach a consensus on where we want to be in 10, 20, 50 years with our water resources, then all we have to do is roll up our sleeves and make it happen. With a plan, I am certain that the people of the Big Bend will band together to protect the future of our unique way of life.”

The Big Bend Conservation Alliance is producing the symposium in partnership with the Rio Grande Research Center and Devils River Conservancy. The event is sponsored by the Dixon Water Foundation, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the City of Alpine, the Big Bend Gazette, Alpine Montessori School, Printco, and Patagonia.

For more information and a complete schedule, visit To reserve a spot on the Balmorhea field trip, please email

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