SWCDS Support Off-Channel Water Reservoirs
Temple — Off-channel reservoirs have become a well-liked alternative for Texas water planning, and have been acclaimed as less ecologically harmful alternatives when compared to traditional on-river reservoirs.
Soil and water conservation district directors representing 216 Texas SWCDS attending their 72nd Annual Meeting October 29-31 in Bastrop voiced unanimous support for the construction of off-channel reservoirs in Texas.
“The logic for Texas SWCDS supporting the construction of a network of off-channel reservoirs adjacent to rivers and streams is that heavy rains contribute to excess runoff. Since Texas has and is facing a decreasing water supply as a result of recurring drought as well as increasing demands for water caused by a growing population, SWCDS have acknowledged that an excess flow of water from a heavy rainfall event is largely an untapped source of water which could be captured to augment available supplies,” said Billy Mann, Secretary, of the Matagorda County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The concept of an off-channel reservoir involves diverting water from a primary stream during high flows to storage in a reservoir often constructed on a smaller tributary stream. Stored water in the off-channel reservoirs is then used to provide a firm supply of water when flow is not available from the primary stream during drought periods.
Implementation of off-channel reservoirs is becoming more common as increasing environmental constraints limit the development of major on-channel reservoirs.
“A key benefit to off-channel reservoirs is that they are more environmentally friendly to fish and wildlife in large aquatic ecosystems such as rivers, streams, bays and estuaries because a traditional reservoir, which involves damming a river’s main channel, changes a river’s natural dynamics,” said Mann.
The primary disadvantage of an off-channel reservoir is the requirement for a pump station and pipeline system to divert water from the primary stream to the off-channel reservoir; however, other benefits, according to Mann, is that off-channel reservoirs generally offer a lower cost for storage because the reservoir is typically sited on a small tributary which reduces the size of the dam and spillway facilities.
“Though Texas SWCDS support the development of off-channel reservoirs, it should be clear that as part of the process SWCDS maintain that all land acquired for the construction of such reservoirs and their accompanying infrastructure should be purchased from willing sellers and that the use of eminent domain proceedings to acquire property should be prohibited,” said Mann.
The TSSWCB administers Texas’ soil and water conservation law and delivers coordinated natural resource conservation programs through the State’s 216 soil and water conservation districts.
Additionally, the TSSWCB is the lead agency for planning, implementing, and managing programs for preventing and abating agricultural and silvicultural nonpoint sources of water pollution. The agency also administers a water supply enhancement program through the targeted control of water-depleting brush. The TSSWCB also acts to ensure that the State’s network of 2,000 flood control dams are protecting lives and property by providing operation, maintenance, and structural repair grants to local government sponsors and facilitates the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee.