University’s first Ph.D. graduate says his degree has opened doors, new opportunities in the important issues surrounding water
Twenty years ago, Dr. Todd Haydn Votteler became the first graduate of the first doctoral program offered at Texas State University. He began his Ph.D. in environmental geography in 1997 — a year after it was introduced at the university — and completed it in 2000.
Looking back at his doctoral studies, Votteler says, “All the hard work was worth it.” The graduate program was so new that he recalls going to meetings where professors would discuss how the written and oral exams would be done.
Votteler is a fellow of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and in 2012 was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus by the Department of Geography. Votteler taught graduate and undergraduate courses about various water subjects as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Biology and the Department of Geography in 2002, 2006, 2013, and 2014.
“I have been fortunate to have had many different opportunities within the water profession during a particularly interesting period in Texas water history,” Votteler said. “My Ph.D. from Texas State helped open the doors to many of those opportunities.”
While completing his doctorate, Votteler also worked as a special master for the Endangered Species Act lawsuit, Sierra Club v. City of San Antonio, for Senior U.S. District Court Judge Lucius Bunton. He previously assisted Joe G. Moore, Jr. during the Sierra Club v. Babbitt ESA litigation over the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio’s source for water. Moore joined the faculty of the Department of Geography after Sierra Club v. Babbitt concluded. Votteler curated a large collection of documents (39 boxes) from these cases, which he donated to Texas State in 2018 in hopes of starting the Texas Water Archives.
Votteler’s dissertation, “Water from a Stone: The Limits of the Sustainable Development of the Texas Edwards Aquifer,” was a plan for managing the aquifer. Years later, he would serve on the steering committee to create the habitat conservation plan for the Edwards Aquifer, for which he and other steering members received the Partners in Conservation Award in 2013 from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.
For 18 years, Votteler worked for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) as executive manager of science, intergovernmental affairs and policy. Today, he heads up the Austin-based Collaborative Water Resolution (CWR). In his role with CWR, his work crosses international borders. In November, he journeyed to China to present lectures and a workshop at the Hohai University School of Law and Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies.
Votteler is the editor-in-chief and a co-founder of the Texas Water Journal, a “peer-reviewed journal devoted to the timely consideration of Texas water resources management, research, and policy issues.” He is also editor-in-chief and a co-founder of Texas+Water, a monthly newsletter and podcast in partnership with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the Texas Water Journal and the Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M University.
In discussing the water issues facing Texas communities, Votteler outlined several concerns:
- The water supply during prolonged droughts
- Additional water supplies and new water management strategies to meet growth in the state
- Aging water infrastructure (pipelines, water treatment facilities, pumps) that need to be replaced.
Votteler has participated in the Texas Water Symposium, a partnership of Hill Country Alliance, Texas Public Radio (TPR) and the Texas Water Journal. In April, Votteler will serve as moderator for a symposium he is organizing, which will air over TPR, and will discuss flood policy and flood management in Texas.