Texas nonprofits buy water in bulk to help fight off drought conditions

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Posted at 3:17 PM, Jul 06, 2022

GALVESTON, Texas — The health of Galveston Bay means a lot to oysterman Raz Halili.

"It's my livelihood," he said.

Halili is the vice president at Prestige Oyster's Inc., which is a family-owned business based in Galveston, Texas.

He knows when the water in the bay is off just by tasting his oysters.

"There's a little alcohol taste to it, which is great for tasting, but it can indicate salinity levels are high, which isn't always great," he said.

Halili explained an overly powerful, salty taste can mean not enough fresh water is flowing into the bay, which is often a symptom of drought. Much of the western United States has been experiencing drought conditions during the early summer months this year.

"Mother nature, she can be tough," Halili said.

To help mitigate the impacts of drought on bay area estuaries and habitats, several nonprofit organizations have banded together to buy water in bulk. The organizations include the Texas Water Trade, Galveston Bay Foundation and the Nature Conservancy.

"If you want to purchase water, you go to the water store. In our case, that's often the River Authority," said Quinn McColly, who is with Texas Water Trade.

He explained the nonprofits purchased the rights to a quantity of water from local river districts for $150,000. The water releases will happen over four years when sensors indicate the health of the bay is suffering and salinity levels could be out of balance.

The nonprofits have enlisted the help of private land owners to help move the water from river districts to the bay and its vital estuaries and habitats.

"The health of bays and estuaries impacts our people, their livelihood, our economies, the tourist economy that depends on bird watching activities and recreational anglers," Matt Singer with the Galveston Bay Foundation said. "This really has a ripple effect that can be felt throughout our coastal communities."

"We want to show this can be a model to be used in other places," Singer said.

"I"m looking forward to seeing what they can do with it," Halili said. "This is where we call home, and we want to make sure it's taken care of.

McColly said their planning included reference to similar projects carried out in the past in Nevada and the Pacific Northwest. By the end of summer 2022, the nonprofits and subject matter experts local to Galveston should have a clearer picture of the impacts of buying water for the environment.