Transborder Aquifers: A Summary of Aquifer Properties, Policies, and Planning Approaches for Texas, Surrounding States, and Mexico

This study is the first in a series of new TWDB reports designed to address advances and new understandings in aquifer science, distribute data on groundwater availability and quality, and provide technical support for decision-makers responsible for groundwater resource management and planning. The work documented in these reports will support the agency’s mission to provide leadership, information, education, and support for planning, financial assistance, and outreach for the conservation and responsible development of water for Texas.

Read the full report here, or continue reading below for a summary of the report.

States that share common groundwater resources without shared management processes will experience unknown and unquantifiable consequences to those future groundwater resources. Each state independently managing these shared resources could alter groundwater withdrawals in other states that rely on specific volumes being available in the future. However, moving forward agencies and entities responsible for planning for future groundwater withdrawals in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, will have better information available for more informed planning.

Strategies for moving forward can employ existing, historical, or develop new approaches to water management with agencies and laws in place, even without federal agreements, interstate compacts, or international treaties on groundwater in place. For example, the memorandum of understanding between the cities of El Paso and Juarez serves as a template and working example of successful collaboration at a local level, the level where planning for groundwater resources might be most successful between states and countries. This agreement addressed the advantages of economies of scale for project implementation, joint outreach programs, sharing technical information, funding opportunities, and groundwater data.

Additionally, the United States-Mexico Border 2020 is an ongoing federal program to address natural resource issues that include water. This program offers a framework to both preserve and develop natural resources responsibly. Another collaborative example of a network developed to integrate water management is the Global Water Partnership, a United Nations Development Program and World Bank initiative. Connecting stakeholders with groundwater managers together at the local level by supporting the implementation of integrated water resources management through this program incrementally builds global water security. This initiative seeks to break out of isolating sector-based planning to collaborate and coordinate natural resources development by addressing people, food, nature, and industry. The binational Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program also serves to provide detailed scientific information about shared aquifers.

Each state follows its own path-dependent approach to managing its groundwater resources. In each state, future resource management and utilization paths are subject to past groundwater withdrawals, uses, public preferences and priorities. However, there may be opportunities to share information and planning efforts for this shared common pool resource that transcends political boundaries, thereby supporting the future management of aquifers shared between Texas and its neighboring states. Examples of shared opportunities are:

  • education, data sharing, and public outreach with neighboring states focusing on the expanding TWDB groundwater website information while including links to other state’s activities;
  • greater outreach extended through intrastate and international participation in the Texas regional water planning and groundwater management area efforts;
  • encouraging and facilitating collaboration between local groups that use, manage, or plan for groundwater in shared aquifers;
  • developing and supporting instruments like memorandums of understanding, with existing state or national agencies facilitating this collaboration;
  • establishing and supporting joint groundwater studies in aquifers spanning state boundaries, starting with TWDB staff outreach to other federal, state and local agency resources; and
  • partnering in integrative international collaborations due to the central position Texas plays as an international, aquifer-sharing participant in planning for future groundwater supplies.

Read the full report here.

Additional resources are listed in Appendix B of the full report.