Since the 1950s, competing interests for use of Edwards Aquifer resources – the primary source of water for more than two million people in south central Texas – were at war. They had tried many times to resolve their differences about how to conserve, allocate, and use the water, but had always failed. Finally, under the patient leadership of Robert Gulley, thirty-nine diverse stakeholders reached a consensus on the use of the Edwards Aquifer that balanced the needs of south central Texas for water with the needs of eight species protected by the Endangered Species Act, culminating a half century of rancor and legal wrangling.
Heads Above Water tells the inside story of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP), a federally sponsored process put in place by the Texas legislature. How such a large and fractious group came together to resolve one of the nation's most intractable and longstanding water problems serves as a case study in consensus building. That consensus brought certainty to the region regarding the use of the aquifer while creating an unlikely but lasting partnership for conservation.
Robert L. Gulley was the executive director of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Program and the mediator for the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP). Before being chosen to lead the EARIP, he was a senior trial attorney with the US Department of Justice, responsible for litigation involving natural resource issues. He lives in San Antonio.
"Heads above Water is the story of a fifty year water war in Texas and how multiple stakeholders ultimately reached a solution. You need to read Robert Gulley's first time history and insightful analysis of why this solution happened. Dr. Gulley not only is the author of this very important book, but was the moderator and facilitator of a unique process that should be studied and followed. It proves that miracles can happen, even on extremely difficult issues."
– Weir Labatt, participant in the EARIP as a representative of the Texas Water Development Board
"For anyone interested in how environmental policy is hammered out in our increasingly complex society, this is a must-read. Conflicts over water use are destined to intensify in the coming years. This book provides valuable and first-hand insight into how such multi-faceted environmental disputes can be resolved amicably."
– Mark Weisshaar, environmental attorney, Washington, D.C.
"Heads above Water reveals the secret, occult and concealed nature of Texas water politics during the five years of negotiations that created an agreement that could eventually resolve one the state's most enduring and intractable disputes over water and endangered species. However, Robert Gulley's examination of the decades of events that eventually lead to the historic Edwards Aquifer agreement recounts a history of water that few in Texas are aware of, yet all should know."
– Todd H. Votteler, editor-in-chief, The Texas Water Journal
"I first heard Robert Gulley's name in the context of hiring a program manager for the daunting task of developing the habitat conservation plan for the Edwards Aquifer. The stakeholders charged with hiring the program manager had passed on the first docket of candidates and were looking for someone new. And along came Dr. Gulley [...] When I heard his pedigree – degrees in zoology and neurobiology; a law degree; direct federal experience in endangered species law; and, being from San Antonio, a hometown boy – I told my Edwards friends "Dr. Frankenstein couldn't have cobbled together a better dude for this task." Indeed, he proved to be the perfect person to navigate a rambunctious crew of varied and opposed interests through the policy, politics, and science of developing a habitat conservation plan for the Edwards Aquifer. [...] Given his front row seat in developing the habitat conservation plan, his interest in history, his writing talents, and his wit, he's also the perfect person to tell not only the story of developing the habitat conservation plan but also story of Edwards Aquifer as a whole. After reading this book, you will have a thorough understanding of the struggles of managing the Edwards Aquifer and will find yourself rewarded with a number of "A-ha!" moments as Dr. Gulley follows the various personalities and issues and connects the dots through the development of the plan. You will also be rewarded with a peek into one corner of the complexity and ferociousness of water issues in Texas – and how those issues were transcended with a consensus plan. [...] Although focused on the Edwards Aquifer in Texas, folks outside of the state involved with endangered species issues will be interested in learning about the fusion of state law with federal law in prompting a relatively quick and inspired development of a habitat conservation plan."
– Robert Mace, Deputy Executive Administrator, Texas Water Development Board