Troubled Waters

Six years ago, state leaders launched an effort to better manage the health of Texas' rivers. But environmental advocates fear that ecology still takes a back seat as legislators fret about having enough water to sate Texas' fast-growing cities. Now, every Texas river is threatened by nearly unprecedented drought and the looming effects of climate change. Our series explores the history, health and future of some of Texas' most important and legendary rivers.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Vast Rio Grande a Source of Numerous Legal Battles

The Rio Grande is cherished by both Americans and Mexicans. But with various levels of government in two countries making decisions that affect the Rio Grande, the 1,900-mile river has become the subject of interstate and international legal battles that have intensified during the continuing drought.

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Bob Daemmrich

Isolated Pecos River Faces Ecological Changes

The Pecos River, in remote West Texas, has avoided some of the challenges that increased development has brought to many of the state’s other waterways. But it has not been spared from a less direct threat: the ecological changes brought by the manmade lakes bookending its passage through the state.

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Laura Buckman

Communities Along Red River Seek Feds' Help

As drought-ridden communities near the Red River spend millions on major water projects, water managers say a decades-old federal project to clean up salt in the river water could also ease the strain. But expensive upgrades have stirred concerns among environmentalists and fallen victim to Congress' ban on earmarks. 

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Spencer Selvidge

When a River's in Trouble, Many Face Sacrifices

The Colorado River, which flows from West Texas all the way down to the Gulf Coast, is caught in a tug-of-war amid the West's prolonged drought. Austinites, rice farmers and fishermen downstream all depend on it — but it's not clear they all won't have to sacrifice if dry conditions continue and urban populations keep growing. 

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Djakhangir Zakhidov

Reused Wastewater Key to Trinity River's Survival

By virtue of its proximity to three major Texas cities, nearly half of the state’s population relies on the Trinity River for some of its water needs. A wastewater reuse program in Dallas has helped maintain the river's flow during the ongoing drought, but future development plans along the river continue to spur debate.

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Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Environmental Concerns Rise as Brazos Levels Fall

The 840-mile Brazos River is a key water source for several municipalities and industries. And as the river's levels continue to be impacted by drought, debate has increased over who gets to use water from the Brazos, how much water should be used and how much water should be left to keep the river healthy.


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Spencer Selvidge

Debate Builds Over How to Save San Saba River

About 140 miles long, the San Saba River in Central Texas is not considered one of the state’s major waterways, but it illustrates — in a state still dealing with a serious drought — the sensitivities surrounding the use of a limited resource. In April, it ranked third on a national conservation group's list of the country’s most endangered rivers.

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Michael Stravato

Rivers Tested by Drought, Population Growth

As the long-running drought continues to blanket most of the state, demands for water are increasing from a growing population and industrial base. These pressures are squeezing Texas waterways, whose average streamflow remains well below normal.

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