Mace Making His Mark on San Marcos Ecosystem
EAHCP Steward had the pleasure of sitting down for a wide-ranging and fun interview with new Meadows Center Associate Director and the Chief Water Policy Officer Robert Mace. His extensive background in water science and policy in Texas and recent position on the EAHCP Science Committee give him great head start in his new position on the EAHCP Implementing Committee.
EAHCP Steward - Give us a little background on your history with water in Texas.
Mace - My technical background is that I have a bachelor's degree in geophysics, a masters degree in hydrology and a Ph.D. in hydrogeology from the University of Texas at Austin. I started my career with the Bureau of Geology at the University of Texas at Austin working on the super conducting, super collider project. While I was there, I got a chance to do some research on the Edwards Aquifer. What I learned on that project is that the Edwards is a fun aquifer to study just because of all the unique and crazy workings of that resource. After the Bureau, I took a job with the Texas Water Development Board. There I was fortunate to work on the first groundwater availability model for this state, a model of the Trinity Aquifer in the Texas Hill Country. That led the State to require groundwater modeling for aquifers across the Texas. While at TWDB, I had the opportunity to be the Science Committee Chair for the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program. That was about a five-year process which ultimately led to the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan we’re operating under now.
EAHCP Steward - From your days with the EARIP to the current status of the EA Habitat Conservation Plan, what work stands out to you significant and promising for the future of the EAHCP?
Mace - The EAHCP is really focused on protecting endangered species in the Comal and San Marcos Springs ecosystems. One of the items promised in the EARIP planning was the updating of the Edwards Aquifer groundwater model. That multi-year process has given us a very good tool to base future EAHCP decisions on. The adaptive management component in the EAHCP is another important aspect of the program because it gives us the opportunity to take what we’ve learned and adapt the means we achieve our federal permit goals going forward. Lastly, there has been a ton of research in learning about the endangered species. I think I’ve learned more about the mating habits of beetles than I ever thought I would as a hydrogeologist.
EAHCP Steward - How did your work on the EARIP help prepare you for your new position on the Implementing Committee, where all of the big decisions about the EAHCP are made?
Mace - I still marvel at Robert Gulley’s (chair of EARIP) ability to herd a large group of scientists and stakeholders through the EARIP process using consensus as the decision tool. Sometimes I’d find myself just watching him in action. He could gauge the temperature of the room, knew when to take a five minute break that would last 40 minutes, but then resume the meeting with everyone going in the same direction. That experience in seeing Robert’s ability to effectively work with people and organizations will be invaluable in my responsibilities going forward.
EAHCP Steward - Tell us about the Meadows Center and how it impacts into the EAHCP.
Mace - The Meadows Center is a water and environment research arm for Texas State University. We’re located a San Marcos Springs, formerly known as Aquarena Springs. The famous pig is no longer here but we still have the glass bottom boats for the public to use. Our basic mission to ensure there is enough water for people and the environment. That fits perfectly with the EAHCP where we’re working to make sure that we have enough quality water to maintain the endangered species but also for growing communities in the Edwards Region. We have great expertise here at the Meadows Center in hydrology, the study of endangered species in this ecosystem and the Edwards Aquifer in general.
EAHCP Steward - Looking into the future, what do you think the Edwards Region will look like 20 years from now?
Mace - Actually, I feel very good about our outlook. With the Edwards Aquifer Authority managing pumping from the Edwards Aquifer and the EAHCP working to learn about and improve the ecosystem here, I think we will be in good shape in the future. Another drought of record, potential pollution from population growth in Edwards recharge areas along with things we don’t know about possible climate change and its impacts on a drought of record all could be challenges. But, we really have a sound team of professionals, a large body of data from extensive Edwards research to draw from and group of partners in the EAHCP determined to work collaboratively. Those positives give us a leg up on addressing problems down the road.