Environmental Flow: Saving Louisiana’s Crown Jewel
Louisiana’s coastal bayous and bays are vital to more than just its ecological health, providing the recreational, industrial and cultural basis for Louisiana’s economy. Louisiana is blessed with an abundance of surface water, so much so that the use of that surface water, for industrial, municipal and petrochemical pursuits has not reached the point where aquatic ecosystems have suffered.
But with increases in population and the petrochemical industry, saltwater intrusion, climate change and relative sea level rise, demand for water increases, threatening our ecological health.
Recent studies have shown that it is not just the quantity of water, but also the location, timing and quality of the water which much be considered.
One potential way of safe guarding the state’s future is through the establishment of environmental flows for our rivers and bayous. If a state’s rivers are like its arteries, environmental flows would be the pulse, making sure that water was available at the right time, location and amounts.
As Louisiana sets out to establish these critical environmental flows, there are lessons to be learned from neighboring states. Texas began the process of establishing and regulating environmental flows decades ago and can provide lessons learned throughout the process, saving Louisiana precious time in our fight to preserve our waterways.
Among the lessons being learned:
- Environmental use of surface water can be a touchy subject and it is wise to begin understanding how much water the environment needs before shortages create conflicts.
- As we have learned more about relationships between ecological health and surface waters, we have learned there is still much more to learn. Understanding these relationships will take years of effort and be ongoing as demand for surface water increases.
- Ground and surface water are interconnected and as their supplies decline, understanding their interactions is increasingly critical
For questions on environmental flow, contact aquatic ecologist David Buzan, who has four decades of experience in assessment and management of marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems and water quality and quantity monitoring and analysis.