Conservation Partner: Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations working to positively benefit Texas’ natural resources and communities through innovative approaches. TxN accelerates conservation by bringing conservation organizations and business together through programs that connect and convene diverse stakeholders and catalyze science-based conservation efforts and projects to accelerate impact.

Learn more about TxN Conservation Partner, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and how they are protecting water resources in the Texas Hill Country. 

Q: Tell us about the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and its mission. 

A: The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) is a grassroots advocacy group that forms the last line of defense for the Edwards and Trinity aquifers, the most vital sources of drinking water in South Central Texas and the western Hill Country. Based in San Antonio, we work in 21 counties across the Edwards and Trinity aquifer watersheds to implement sensible growth and land use policies, challenge projects that pose risk to our water supplies, and educate the public about these crucial groundwater resources. We love our Hill Country environment with its mysterious caverns, clear springs, and bountiful plants and wildlife; we work hard to protect those natural resources for future generations. 

GEAA Technical Director Debbie Reid

Q: What is the history of GEAA? 

A: In the early 2000s as growth in our region ramped up, citizen-based conservation organizations in San Antonio, San Marcos, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, and Austin recognized the need to work collectively. Our founding groups began meeting during summer 2002, and a few months later, GEAA was born. The first thing we agreed on was the need to develop a plan of action to save the Edwards Aquifer. We worked together and wrote the Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan, a playbook for saving the Edwards Aquifer based on sound science and sustainable economic principles. Our work has continued since then, and we now represent members from Austin to Del Rio.

“Our karst aquifers can replenish themselves and provide all the water we need, but the one thing they can’t do is protect themselves from being paved over and polluted. Only by working together, as an alliance, can we ensure these precious drinking water supplies last forever.” — Annalisa Peace, Executive Director, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience? 

A: We’re a coalition of more than 50 member groups representing a wide array of communities and causes that reflect the diversity of our region. We decide which issues to get involved in based on consensus of our member groups, who meet regularly to share issues and hone in on GEAA’s focus for the upcoming year. Our work involves speaking to policymakers and regulators, as well as the general public. We produce and distribute educational materials that will assist public- and private-sector decision makers to take actions to protect and sustain the quality and quantity of Edwards Aquifer flows. We’ve expanded and aided the coordination of existing public interest for sustainable water and land use practices in the Greater Edwards Aquifer region. We also catalyze greater investment by private non-profit and for-profit organizations, government agencies, and individuals in Edwards Aquifer watershed preservation and sustainable water and land-use practices. 

GEAA Executive Director Annalisa Peace with UTSA students

Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs?

A: The GEAA internship program engages student interns in semester-long research projects by pairing them with professionals from various fields who volunteer their expertise to head up research projects designed to inform development of policy that promotes preservation of our regional water resources. The program provides students with the opportunity to work closely with experts in their field of study and has leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in expertise and research time. Over the years, hundreds of students have refined the skills they will use in their futures careers by participating in GEAA internships. GEAA has been a leader in engaging the citizens of our region in advocacy of water conservation, equitable allocation of our water resources, public policy aimed at protecting water quality, and land use practices that will preserve the culture and ecosystems that make the Texas Hill Country unique. We submitted public comments to national, state and local agencies on a variety of issues pertinent to our mission. GEAA was featured in numerous press reports and radio shows and engaged our more than 50 member organizations in statewide advocacy of policies to protect and preserve our water resources. We are currently working on a public campaign to encourage homeowners and businesses over the aquifer’s sensitive recharge zone to avoid using harmful chemicals that could run off and infiltrate into our groundwater.

Student thank you letter to the GEAA

Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects and programs? 

A: Our region is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S. People are drawn to this area because of its natural beauty and clear, flowing water. But will people still want to live here if we over-pump our aquifers, bulldoze habitat for our iconic species, and choke our waterways with algae-growing pollution from lawn chemicals and sewage plants? Texas needs long-term, sustainable growth and land-use strategies that balance good science, current economic needs, and the needs of future generations. GEAA works to ensure that San Antonio and our part of the Hill Country can continue to be a place where people live, work, and visit long into the future. 

Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or even challenges ahead? 

A: We are excited to share that our team is doubling its size in 2022. We have recently hired two new full-time staffers to learn from and assist Annalisa Peace and Debbie Reid, our aquifer veterans. Expect to see a ramping up of GEAA’s online presence and organizing efforts, including in fast-growing exurban areas such as Castroville, Boerne, and Bulverde. 

Q: Q: Are there any other interesting news, events, or facts about your organization that you’d like to share? 

A:  One of GEAA’s recent focuses has been on flood prevention, using strategies that fall under the umbrella of low-impact development (LID). That’s why GEAA produced an LID manual for our region that emphasizes using rain gardens, bioswales, and other innovative landscaping techniques that use native plants rather than concrete to help stormwater runoff slow down, spread out, and sink in.

Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization? 

A:  Individual memberships provide operational support that is vital to our continued success. For groups based in South Central Texas looking for additional resources and involvement in the broader community, we would love to have you join as a member group. Please contact one of our staff members and we can assist you with joining. We will also post information on our website and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) about any upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations across Texas. Through our Conservation Partner network, we connect conservation organizations with the resources and relationships they need to extend their initiatives’ impact. Partner benefits include on-going features on social media, monthly media round-up, quarterly meetings, aggregated resources on fundraising, marketing/social media, and more.