Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of Drifting Toward Disaster, a Texas Observer series about life-changing challenges facing Texans and their rivers. For Part 1, see “The Second Rio Grande.” Go here for parts 3, “Dow’s River”; and 4, “Staying Afloat.”
Few rivers can claim as strong a connection to Texas’ natural and cultural history—and its very identity—as the Brazos.
It drains the second-largest river basin in Texas, meandering for 840 miles from the Llano Estacado near Lubbock, cutting across prairie and limestone hills to woodlands, through farms and ranches, cities, towns, and coastal marshes before finally merging with the Gulf of Mexico south of Freeport’s giant petrochemical plants.
Spanish explorers named it Los Brazos de Dios, “the Arms of God,” because of the river’s many tributaries and life-saving waters. Texas’ first capital, when it was a colony authorized by the Spanish government, was founded on the Brazos at San Felipe de Austin. When it won its independence and became a short-lived republic, Texas established its capital at Washington-on-the-Brazos. The river has inspired poetry, art, and music. Perhaps most importantly for the Brazos’ own survival, it inspired an enduring book.
Fort Worth native and author John Graves wrote Goodbye to a River about a three-week canoe trip he had made on the Brazos in fall 1957. He wanted to memorialize the river he had hunted, fished, and paddled before it could be changed forever by a string of dams that had been proposed from Possum Kingdom to Whitney. Graves wrote of the beauty of the free-flowing river; the stories of the Comanches and Anglo settlers who had lived on its banks; and even mentioned the encroachment of industry in the form of a gravel pit.
The book—still in print since its publication in 1960—sparked a conservation movement and helped lead to the abandonment of plans for all but one of the downstream dams. In 2005, the Texas Legislature created the John Graves Scenic Riverway on the segment of the Brazos from below Possum Kingdom Lake to just above Lake Granbury and gave it stronger protections from rock mining.
The legislation tightened rules so that any quarry operating within a mile of the river must obtain a special permit. It banned new quarries or expansions located within 200 feet and those between 200 and 1,500 feet of the river unless they could meet specific criteria set to control erosion and protect wildlife habitats. The criteria also required a reclamation plan and the use of best-available technology.
Many quarries shut down as a result of the new restrictions, but tourism has flourished. Thousands of people a year kayak, canoe, fish, and swim in one of the state’s most picturesque stretches of river, framed by high rocky bluffs.
However, the rules that created the riverway are set to expire in 2025 unless activists can convince the Legislature to renew them. In the meantime, a much tougher fight faces the Brazos—and not just on the scenic section.
That’s the Gordian knot of development in the Brazos basin. Urban, suburban, and industrial growth is creating ever-increasing demands on the Brazos’ finite supply of water. It’s also adding to pollution as cities, farms, ranches, and industrial complexes return the Brazos’ water—sometimes clean, often polluted—to the river once they’ve used it for drinking, cooking, cleaning, raising livestock, watering crops, light-commercial to heavy-industrial processes, recreation, and watering hundreds of thousands of lawns.
And, as the federal Clean Water Act turns 50, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is again taking fire from various directions for not better protecting the state’s water resources. A staff report by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission this year called TCEQ commissioners “reluctant regulators.” In 2021, more than 20 environmental groups filed petitions asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force Texas to fix its “broken” water system and accused the state agency of giving developers and other polluters a “green light to a huge contamination” of Texas’ public waterways.
Throughout Texas, more than 460 stream segments are classified by TCEQ as “impaired,” meaning they fall short of water quality standards because of pollution. Of those, 75 flow in the Brazos River Basin, which has more impaired streams than any other river basin in Texas. The reasons those streams are classified as impaired, according to TCEQ, include too much bacteria in the water, toxic sediment, excessive algae growth, impaired fish communities, and mercury found in edible tissue, meaning in fish or shellfish.
Alex Ortiz, an attorney and water resources specialist for the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, said the Brazos—and other Texas river basins for that matter—are “really strained. They’re under a lot of pressure from pollutants that really don’t have the regulatory oversight the Clean Water Act intended.”
That strain shows in once-clear parts of the Brazos now muddy with sediment, its flow interrupted by islands of sand and vegetation. It shows in massive fish kills, especially during periods of drought such as one that occurred in Lake Granbury in 2011 and one in 2022 around Waco. It is evident in numerous algae blooms in the middle Brazos around Glen Rose, and one in 2021 at Belton Lake that produced toxins strong enough to kill several dogs that drank from it. It shows in more than 60 segments of the river basin considered too polluted for safe swimming, boating, and other recreational uses.
These days, protecting the Brazos is an uphill struggle against powerful industries, monied developers, and expanding cities that view the river as a natural resource to be exploited. The Texas Water Development Board estimates that by the time the Brazos reaches the Gulf, it has served almost 4 million Texans who need water for their daily lives, homes, businesses, industry, and agriculture.
As Texas’ population continues growing, the bottom line is, “How much can the river take and absorb?” said Nick Dornak, president of the nonprofit group Friends of the Brazos and director of watershed services at Texas State University’s Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. “That’s the question, because I feel like the Brazos, like so many rivers in Texas right now, is at a potential breaking point.”
The Brazos’ beginnings in some way presage its current problems: human habitation, mining, many-times-used water. It starts in the high, dry plains of the New Mexico-Texas border, where the land drains into draws that eventually create the Brazos. There, between Portales and Clovis, lies one of the most significant sites of early human occupation in North America: Blackwater Draw, the uppermost tributary of the Brazos, which flowed in the ancient past but went dry as the climate changed thousands of years ago.
After unusual, fluted projectile points—now called Clovis points—were discovered there in 1929, archaeologists arrived and uncovered animal bones and artifacts showing that humans had lived in North America as far back as the Ice Age 13,000 years ago, hunting animals like bison, mammoth, and ground sloths.
The Clovis discoveries eventually put a stop to gravel mining that had been going on there since the 1920s. The federal government stepped in in 1982 to protect the draw as a National Historic Landmark.
The draw runs north of Lubbock to Yellow House Canyon where the North Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos begins. Here, effluent discharged from wastewater treatment plants in Lubbock County contributes to the river’s flow.
The Brazos’ main stem begins downstream in Stonewall County near Old Glory where the Double Mountain Fork meets the Salt Fork, so named for its natural salty quality. The river picks up the Clear Fork in Young County and heads south to Palo Pinto County, site of the basin’s first dam at Possum Kingdom.
The Morris Sheppard Dam was built in 1941 for hydroelectric power, water supply, and recreation. The dam held back silt from upstream runoff so the Brazos below the dam ran crystal clear and drew people to its scenic beauty.
By the dawn of the 21st century, however, those who lived near the Brazos in Palo Pinto and Parker counties noticed the river’s quality was deteriorating. After heavy rains, tons of dirt and clay surged down the river, threatening fish and wildlife habitats. The once free-flowing Brazos turned shallow and brown, and sediment formed islands of silt overgrown with vegetation like cattails and weeds.
Residents complained that fish were disappearing. The white sandy beaches and blue waters were replaced with thick, brown mud and tea-colored water. Much of the mud was coming from illegal quarries mining stone for building purposes.
Tiffany Malzahn was the Brazos River Authority’s (BRA) upper basin environmental planner. She was working in the field when she witnessed quarry miners dumping what they didn’t want into the river. “I observed some [mine workers] taking those layers and just shoving those materials into the riverbed,” recalled Malzahn, now the BRA’s environmental and compliance manager.
Concerned residents banded together to form the nonprofit Brazos River Conservation Coalition. They asked TCEQ for help, but nothing much happened until Walmart heir Alice Walton, who owned a Palo Pinto County ranch along the Brazos, got involved. TCEQ sent inspectors into the county and shut down a quarry for stormwater violations. Other quarries closed.
In 2004, TCEQ launched a statewide “Clear Streams Initiative” that enforced quarry regulations, examining 316 sites in 62 counties and even using helicopters to inspect remote areas. Inspectors found dozens of mines operating without permits. The investigations resulted in 128 notices of violations (most of them for construction sand and gravel operations), 38 notices of enforcement, and more than $1 million in penalties. Six cases were referred to the attorney general for prosecution. The AG’s office issued temporary restraining orders against three quarries, prohibiting discharges, and two temporary injunctions requiring modifications to plant sites; another quarry shut down.
A year later, the John Graves Scenic Riverway was created and a pilot program was launched by TCEQ and other state agencies to respond to citizen concerns about water quality.
“Closing the hole in the regulations and the permitting process that came out of it have been the greatest successes” of the scenic riverway legislation, Malzahn said. “The strongest thing was stopping the bad actors.”
TCEQ currently lists six pits operating under general permits in the John Graves Scenic Riverway. At times, facilities have applied for the more stringent individual permit and then withdrawn because they could not meet the requirements.
The scenic riverway designation was significant because it set a precedent for future river protections, Dornak said. “While it wasn’t easy and has not been easy to duplicate, it showed what can be done when stakeholders stand up and work together to protect critical lands and waters,” he noted.
The result is visible—clearer water that has made the John Graves Scenic Riverway one of the state’s most popular areas for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
It’s a different story downstream where the Brazos doesn’t have the same protections from mining.
East of Glen Rose in Somervell County, a sand mining pit operated by minerals and materials giant Covia Holdings Corp. racked up 19 permit violations from 2013 to 2019, according to EPA data. Most were for exceeding the amount of total suspended solids discharged. Total suspended solids are a concern with mining facilities, TCEQ has said, because excess sediment can destroy aquatic habitat.
Also east of Glen Rose, the MW Ranch, where for years Friends of the Brazos held annual fundraisers, has leased part of its property to Vulcan Materials Company, the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates, to crush rock several hundred feet from the Brazos. Worried residents formed a group called SCRAM—Somervell County Residents Against Mining—and protested, but by March 2020 the rock crushing operation was up and running.
Ralph Hawkins, a Dallas architect who has been involved with SCRAM, bought land adjacent to MW Ranch where he lives part time and raises hay along the river. TCEQ required only an air quality permit for the MW Ranch mining site, but Hawkins objected that the site was within the Brazos floodplain and wetland areas that potentially could pollute the river. TCEQ’s response was that “issues regarding water use, water quality, or water availability are not within the scope of this permit review.”
“I would absolutely think they need a stormwater permit,” said Dornak, whose family owns property nearby on the Brazos. “At bare minimum.”
SCRAM’s research found that 60 percent of the river in Somervell County had rock crushing, sand, or gravel operations. TCEQ said it cannot limit the number of surface mines or deny an air quality permit application as long as it meets rules and requirements.
“There’s so much history with the Brazos and to have so much of it being excavated … it’s really kind of sad to see such a recreational draw for Somervell County be treated like that,” Hawkins said.
Sorrow for what has been happening to the Brazos and rivers in general resounds in Don Henley’s song “Goodbye to a River,” released on his 2000 solo album, Inside Job. It’s a collective, universal cry against “killing everything divine.” The captains of industry, Henley sings, “Put that river in a box/ Well, it was running wild/And men must have control.”
That control takes the form of dams and 11 reservoirs that make up the Brazos River Authority’s water supply system and another eight owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control. The BRA, established in 1929 as the first state agency in the United States to develop and manage water resources for an entire river basin, leases water supply storage from the federal reservoirs.
Already, the demand for water in the Brazos basin is exceeding the estimated supply in some areas. In less than 20 years, demand is expected to outpace supply along the whole river.
At the same time, drought is having a palpable impact on the Brazos watershed. In November 2021, the basin’s reservoirs were collectively almost 94 percent full. A year later, they were about 72 percent full, according to data from the Texas Water Development Board.
The biggest supply pressure in the future won’t come from industry, but from cities and towns. Lubbock, Abilene, Temple-Belton, Waco, and Round Rock in the upper-middle Brazos basin all had populations of more than 100,000 as of the 2020 census. Those cities and others not only draw water out of the Brazos basin but return it in the form of effluent—also called wastewater.
“Everything can be tied back to the fact that our population is exploding,” Malzahn said.
As demand for water is forecast to outpace supply by 2040 and beyond, many options are being considered to augment it, from building more reservoirs to aquifer storage, desalination plants, and more creative ways to reuse wastewater and conserve potable water.
Population growth also means that as more water is being requested from the river, more effluent is being put back into it. As Malzahn put it, wastewater is a “double-edged sword”—it’s necessary for water flow in the river, but accidental wastewater spills and discharges beyond what is permitted are common in the Brazos River basin. A few have been massive.
In 2021 a City of Waco wastewater treatment plant dumped 4.5 million gallons of untreated household sewage into the Brazos. The city blamed the spill on heavy rains and a mechanical failure at the plant.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Kills and Spills Team, which investigates fish and wildlife kills after spills or natural events, explained that sewage spills can cause fish kills when bacteria consume the organic matter in the sewage and use up all the dissolved oxygen in the water, causing fish and other aquatic organisms to suffocate.
Farther downstream, Texas A&M University discharged illegal levels of E. coli into the Brazos River from a wastewater treatment plant on its main College Station campus a dozen times over a 21-month period ending in September 2017. Some of the releases were five times the maximum allowable amount under the law. The university blamed the discharge on an “operational issue” at its wastewater treatment plant and flooding from Hurricane Harvey. It was fined once for $12,600.
TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division staff found no reports in their files of fish kills in Waco or in College Station after the sewage spills. That doesn’t mean a fish kill didn’t occur, an agency spokesperson said, but “if fish kills did take place, they were not reported to TPWD.”
When a treatment plant failure is due to heavy rains and flooding, the agency said, “the volume of water may be high enough, and the flow fast enough, that the sewage spill doesn’t impact fish.”
In addition to equipment failures due to weather, unintentional discharges while upgrading equipment also happen. Among Texas municipal wastewater dischargers, the City of Lubbock had the most exceedances of any city from December 2019 to July 2022, EPA data show. The violations included excessive amounts of E. coli, nitrogen and ammonia, phosphorus, and high biochemical oxygen demand, which is measured over five days and indicates polluted water.
Aubrey Spear, Lubbock’s director of water utilities, said the city began installing more efficient equipment in 2020. “Anytime you have to upgrade any of your wastewater treatment facilities, it’s like working on your Ford pickup while it’s running down the road,” Spear said. “So during that process we have had some exceedances that were discharged.”
Although it was one event, it was counted as multiple violations in the data, he said. The city also had some equipment fail in early 2021 because of icy weather from Winter Storm Uri.
“We’re working with TCEQ on all of this,” Spear said. “Our goal is to have zero [problematic discharges].”
Comprehensive federal standards for water didn’t exist until the Clean Water Act passed in 1972. Under it, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit program authorizes state governments—TCEQ, in Texas’ case—to handle permits and enforcement.
Environmental groups, though, have taken TCEQ to task for being too lax in regulating air, water, and land pollution. Since the groups filed their petitions in 2021, the EPA has repeatedly asked for more information and documentation of TCEQ deficiencies, as recently as November 2022.
Also in November, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which periodically evaluates state agencies for their effectiveness and recommends changes to lawmakers, agreed. It found TCEQ needed to be more transparent and do a better job of enforcing compliance by increasing penalties on polluters. Lawmakers will take up the recommendations at the next legislative session that begins in January.
Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA to assist states, territories, and authorized tribes in listing impaired waters and developing what is called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDL. They establish the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed in a water body and serve as the starting point for plans to restore water quality.
The lists of waters impaired by a pollutant and in need of a TMDL and the lists of water quality status of all waters in the state are combined into a single “Integrated Report,” an important document that gives a snapshot of the health of Texas rivers, creeks, lakes, and other bodies of water. Once a body of water is listed as impaired, it remains there until the state develops a TMDL and the EPA approves it.
“When a segment of a stream, lake, river, whatever becomes so impaired from a particular pollutant, there’s supposed to be a rehabilitation plan,” Ortiz explained. “That’s something the Clean Water Act requires, that you actually have a plan to get impaired waters off the impaired waters list. And for the most part, TCEQ kicks the can down the road. It’s a very backlogged system.” In other words, TCEQ hasn’t developed those plans, or even developed TMDLs, for lots of these streams.
The fact that so many streams in the Brazos basin don’t even have TMDL scores worries environmentalists because that means “there are no pollution caps on Texas’ already most vulnerable waters,” Ortiz said. “That’s kind of frightening to think about.”
The list of so-called “impaired” waters in the Brazos River basin includes segments of major tributaries—the Leon, Lampasas, Little, and North Bosque rivers and Double Mountain, Clear, and Salt forks of the Brazos. Numerous creeks made the list, as did lakes Somerville (impaired for pH levels since 2002); Pat Cleburne and Graham (both for excessive algae growth); and Lake Alan Henry, which has been impaired since 2010 for mercury in edible tissue. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has placed a fish consumption advisory on that lake, recommending limits on eating catfish, crappie, and bass, and advising that children and pregnant women should not eat those fish at all.
TCEQ, through a spokesperson, responded that streams may remain on the list for various reasons—other strategies, such as water quality standards evaluations, can also take a long time to develop.
“It also takes a long time to develop TMDLs or watershed protection plans, which can contribute to the length of time a waterbody is on the list,” the agency added. “Waters with watershed protection plans, rather than TMDLs, remain on the list until water quality standards are attained. In some instances, it may take many years after implementing a strategy or several different strategies before water quality improvements are documented and a water body is delisted.”
Even the Brazos segment above Possum Kingdom Lake has been on the impaired waters list since 2008 because of too much bacteria in the water.
That segment is, in TCEQ parlance, a “Category 5c” for impairment, meaning that, for 14 years, the agency has been collecting data and information and evaluating it for a plan to manage the stream.
“They’re not close to selecting a management strategy, and that’s sort of one of the clear failures,” Ortiz said. “There’s a lack of thinking on TCEQ’s part in terms of the real interconnectedness of Texas waters. And there’s no environmental nonprofit that has the staff or funding to really take a holistic look at statewide water quality.”
Conservationists and environmental activists have scored some impressive wins when it comes to protecting the upper to middle Brazos.
Dallas restaurateur and river paddler Ed Lowe founded Friends of the Brazos after he grew alarmed by the BRA’s action in 2004. The river authority had asked the state to more than double the BRA’s water rights, adding about a million acre-feet of water to the 700,000 acre-feet it already held in reservoirs. (An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover an acre of ground with one foot of water).
Lowe, Graves, and other conservationists hired scientists and lawyers to challenge the plan. They claimed it would give the BRA power to take possibly every drop from the river for future sale to cities, industries, and others without having to reveal at what points it would be taken or the potential impacts on water quality or fish and wildlife.
TCEQ rebuffed the BRA’s request.
Lowe was not as successful in convincing legislators to extend the John Graves Scenic Riverway protections to the Brazos in Hood and Somervell counties. The Texas House’s Natural Resources Committee, many of whose members accept campaign contributions from the aggregate industry, killed the bill to extend protections in 2013 before it ever made it out of the committee.
Graves died in 2013 at his home in Glen Rose, and Lowe died in November 2018 during a paddling trip to Big Bend. But Friends of the Brazos is carrying on without the two men who did so much to make so many people care about the river.
Both men’s families are still involved. Dornak is Lowe’s son-in-law, and Sally Graves Jackson, one of Graves’ daughters, contributes to Friends of the Brazos. Its current mission is one of stewardship—keeping water in the Brazos, keeping trash and pollution out, and holding an annual river cleanup.
“What kind of permanent damage are we doing in the long term and how climate change will impact all this is really important,” Dornak said. “So that’s what gets me going every day. This conservation effort must go on.”
East of Granbury, Rucker Creek runs through wooded areas and past affluent housing developments like those springing up all over Hood County. It eventually flows into the Brazos and Lake Granbury and, recently, into a controversy that makes it a microcosm of what is happening in the Brazos basin.
Friends of the Brazos supported a group of concerned citizens who formed Granbury Fresh to fight that city’s plan to build a new second wastewater treatment plant and discharge 2 million gallons of effluent daily into the Rucker, a scenic creek lined with boat ramps and where residents routinely kayak, canoe, swim, and fish. The new plant would add capacity that the fast-growing city, now a retirement and recreation refuge for people from all over urban North Texas, badly needs.
City officials said that if it does not build the new plant, they have no choice but to prohibit new development. The city in 2020 issued a moratorium on approving new plats and construction permits. It estimated that the city would lose hundreds of jobs over the next decade if the plant isn’t built. “This creates spinoff consequences of loss of state and local tax revenues, which will negatively impact local government services,” city officials said in documents filed with TCEQ.
Victoria Calder, a Friends of the Brazos board member and president of Granbury Fresh, said that if a storm and power outage caused a spill in Rucker Creek such as happened in Waco, it would be devastating to residents and the environment.
“It’s a matter of when, not if, a spill happens,” she said. “The severity of consequences in a high recreational, narrow, shallow creek is over the top. It really ruins the public welfare, which is supposed to be protected under the Clean Water Act.”
The contested case went to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Last June, administrative law judges recommended that the TCEQ issue a draft permit. In October, TCEQ commissioners voted unanimously to grant the permit.
Granbury city officials declined to comment on the new wastewater treatment plant because of “possible future litigation.” In a news release, they said that once the new plant is built and begins operating, the wastewater system issues “will be resolved,” implying that’s when it would lift the moratorium.
Dornak described the Rucker Creek case as “absolutely symbolic” of the clashes taking place around Texas between growth and conservation.
“Clearly, the Brazos is a resilient river. It’s a large river, so it can absorb a little more,” Dornak said. “The canaries in the coal mines will be a lot of these streams like Rucker. … Do you flip that pretty, pristine stream to ‘impaired’ and change the aquatic ecosystems and do long-term impacts to the health of those streams?”
In May 2021, the Texas House passed a bill banning the dumping of wastewater into stream segments deemed “pristine” because of their low phosphorus levels. The so-called “Pristine Streams Bill” received bipartisan support and passed by a vote of 82 to 61, but a companion bill died in the Senate.
Most of the 22 streams identified as “pristine” are in the Hill Country. (Rucker didn’t qualify as an official pristine stream.) The only bodies of water in the huge Brazos River basin considered to be pristine were the north and south forks of the San Gabriel River in Burnet and Williamson counties.
Even though it didn’t become law, the bill made it further than any previous proposed legislation on wastewater discharge. Conservationists filed a petition with the TCEQ to create a rule against issuing wastewater discharge permits on pristine streams. The commission received more than 1,200 comments and in March heard over an hour of in-person comments but denied the petition. However, it left the door open for continued stakeholder talks on how to better protect Texas’ last few pristine streams.
“We need leaders at the state and national level that can inspire and move the needle on how we’re managing our land and our water resources,” Dornak said. “That Pristine Streams legislation getting through the House shows we can achieve some really good bipartisan solutions on water if it’s done right.”
The “John Graves Scenic Riverway” sign appears just before Farm Road 4 crosses the Dark Valley Bridge in Palo Pinto County. On a sunny day last October, the Brazos flowed steadily, rippling over rocks under the bridge.
Buddy Rochelle, co-owner of Rochelle’s Canoe Rental by the bridge, couldn’t contain his excitement that the BRA had released water from the dam that morning—the authority said it was doing so to balance the drawdown levels between lakes Possum Kingdom and Granbury. Rochelle said he thought it was done because of Granbury’s swanky new lake developments and wealthy, politically influential people.
Regardless, the release would give his customers who rent canoes and kayaks plenty of water and even some rapids to enjoy.
“I’ve heard all kinds of little horror stories downstream from us about the Brazos being completely dry in some places,” he added. “We’re just in a bad state right now.”
Rochelle’s family has lived here since 1928 and has owned and operated the business near Graford since 1969. Many of their customers have read Graves’ book or even bring it with them, Rochelle said. “I’m talking about a lot of people,” he added, pointing at a copy of Goodbye to a River on his office shelf.
Sally Graves Jackson said her father’s book “encouraged people to pay attention and perhaps feel responsibility for a landscape that has a history and a value that’s not just recreational, or agricultural, or industrial. The Brazos has a past that mattered.”
Its future matters, too.
Before he died, Lowe left what now sounds like an ominous warning on Friends of the Brazos’ website. Lowe said he was worried that the river, especially the part from Possum Kingdom to Glen Rose, has suffered “significant ecological damage—stream fragmentation, channel sedimentation, frequent golden algae blooms which devastate fish populations and significantly reduced instream flows.”
He added that before you can save a river, you first have to fall in love with it. “That’s what John Graves did more than 50 years ago,” he wrote. “Now it’s our turn to save this wonderful place before it’s too late.”
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of Drifting Toward Disaster, a Texas Observer series about life-changing challenges facing Texans and their rivers. For part 1, see “The Second Rio Grande“; part 3, “Dow’s River“; and part 4, “Staying Afloat.”