Co-production of a Water Flow Decision Tool to Support Resource Management

Principal Investigator
Research
Highlight

The freshwater inflow decision support tool will be used to craft a user-driven blueprint to reduce uncertainty regarding the water allocation decision for the Lavaca Navidad River Authority project.

The portion of managed water resources that is left in stream and allowed to flow to bays and estuaries is referred to as freshwater inflow (FWI) and is critical to ecological functions and ultimately human wellbeing. A large body of work describes the relationship between FWI and ecological needs at various levels; however, uncertainty remains regarding the linkages of FWI to socioeconomic outcomes. Water managers make decisions based on human water needs and environmental conditions but lack access to associated socioeconomic factors that also merit consideration. Current models used to inform water permitting and planning decisions could be enhanced with improved linkages between FWI, environmental conditions, and socioeconomics. 

This project will explore the feasibility of a freshwater inflow decision support tool that will provide managers with a better understanding of the impact of allowing water to flow to the coast, as well as how to maximize environmental, social, and economic benefits while adapting to changing conditions over time. Specifically, the project team will focus on the pending permit proposed by the Lavaca Navidad River Authority to build a large off-channel water storage facility to be operated in conjunction with Lake Texana in southeast Texas. The team will collaborate with resource managers responsible for and involved in Texas environmental water flow decisions, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Lavaca Navidad River Authority, and the Texas Water Development Board. Using a co-production approach, the team will define ecological and socioeconomic targets and quantify and evaluate their connections. The planning process will illuminate information needs of resource managers, assess data needs and availability, and create and evaluate methodologies to establish linked impacts through modeling techniques. The project team will prioritize tool development based on a combination of factors: performance, utility, and scalability.