Texas' last 'truly clean' water source not immune to drought, pumping

Devil's River located in central Val Verde County

VAL VERDE COUNTY, Texas – The Devil's River, a relatively short river located in rural Val Verde County, is truly an untouched piece of Texas beauty.

"It's the cleanest river in Texas, no doubt about it," said Joe Joplin, superintendent of the Devil's River State Natural Area.

A bold statement, but one most would have a hard time disputing.

It is also home to several endangered species.

"There's no major cities, no major development around it, and it's spring-fed," said Joplin.

Add to it the fact that there is very little vehicle traffic and limited visitation and you understand why the waterway is so picturesque and contains transparent, turquoise waters.

The water is in fact so clear, according to Joplin, that it is the only river in Texas from which it is safe to drink.

Still, one of the state's most well-guarded secrets is now facing an issue that many other waterways in Texas are facing: issues of depletion and over-pumping. 

The river, already strained by drought, is quickly gaining attention.

"There is commercial interest in this area and that's something people have to look at seriously," said Joplin.

While Joplin's employer, Texas Parks and Wildlife, is watching the situation closely, environmental groups are attempting to head off any issues. 

Recently, a proposal from SAWS to pump water from Val Verde County was opposed by the Devil's River Conservancy, among others. The conservancy, which was recently formed, believed pumping in Val Verde County would have negative effects on the river.  

Taking water for fracking is a new issue the river is facing.

Increased population and drought means most Texans are searching for water, but for those who know and love this river, hope they do not come looking for it at the Devil's.

"It depends on what people do," said Joplin. "Nature's going to take care of itself. We're in a drought now (and) the springs are low. It can survive that, but I'm not sure it can survive a lot of development."

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