Balmorhea Springs Placed on “Waters to Watch” List

BALMORHEA—Balmorhea Springs, a complex of Trans-Pecos water sources which supports two endangered fish species, an endangered snail, and four other species of concern, has been placed on the National Fish Habitat Partnership’s 10 “Water to Watch” list for 2013.

The Balmorhea Springs complex is a group of springs and cienegas (naturally occurring water-holding basins) between the Toyah Basin and the Davis Mountains.

The species found in Balmorhea Springs – Comanche Springs pupfish, Pecos gambusia, headwater catfish and four invertebrates — are threatened by issues including complete dewatering, depletion of aquifers by groundwater pumping, conversion for agricultural or recreation use, and poor land management practices.

“Management of spring and ciénega systems requires a holistic, watershed approach with private, state, federal, and local partners to conserve, restore, and address threats to these important desert habitats,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department watershed biologist Megan Bean and the conservation team wrote in their nomination of Balmorhea Springs.

TPWD has participated in projects to revitalize Phantom Lake Spring and cienega as well as San Soloman Cienega at Balmorhea State Park. In addition, a new feature called Clark Hubbs Cienega was created at the park as a refuge for Comanche Spring pubfish and Pecos gambusia. Significant conservation efforts also have been made at West and East Sandia Springs on a 246-acre preserve near Balmorhea owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The annual listing features a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, watershed systems and lakes across the nation that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition.

The waters included in the list represent a snapshot of this year’s voluntary, in-progress habitat conservation efforts. These and other locally driven conservation projects are prioritized and implemented by regional Fish Habitat Partnerships that have been formed throughout the country.

The objective of these projects—to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas home—is the foundation of the National Fish Habitat Partnership.

Through the work of various partners, the projects included in this year’s list will be the showcase of conservation efforts aimed at avoiding and reversing persistent declines in the nation’s aquatic habitats. With 70 Waters to Watch partnership projects highlighted since 2007, the monitoring of these projects is proving that on-the-ground conservation activities and strategies are truly making a difference in improving fish habitat.

The National Fish Habitat Partnership since 2006 has been a partner in 342 projects in 46 states benefiting fish habitat. The National Fish Habitat Partnership works to conserve fish habitat nationwide, leveraging federal, state, and private funding sources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations through priority conservation projects. The national partnership implements the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and supports 18 regional grassroots partner organizations. For more information visit,,

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