Regional water plans are part of the blueprint for Texas' future water needs November 2012

In January of this year, the latest version of the Texas Water Development Board's (TWDB) State Water Plan was released. This release, on the heels of a year with some of the worst drought conditions on record, brought our water supply issues to the forefront of the minds of the media, legislators, community officials, and Texas citizens.

Sixteen regional water plans are the basis of the State Water Plan. The regional plans, developed by 16 regional water planning groups across the state, are the foundation of this cooperative water planning process.

Texas' regional water planning areas were created in 1998 and are based on aquifer delineations, socioeconomic characteristics, political subdivisions and other factors and are reviewed every five years. Each planning area has its own planning group, responsible for developing a water plan every five years. These groups are required by statute to represent at least 12 interests, including the public, industries, environment, agriculture and utilities.

Even though the latest State Water Plan was just published, regional planning groups began working on their next plans in August 2011 to prepare for a 2016 due date. TWDB has released draft non-municipal water demand projections (for things like irrigation, mining and manufacturing) to the regional groups to evaluate. Once TWDB receives population projections from the State Data Center, Board staff will begin the additional analysis necessary to release detailed draft population projections to the regional planning groups. The groups are also working on determining the water availability and current supplies for their regions.

During this planning cycle, regional groups must reach several benchmarks. They must finalize their requested population and water demand projections (which require formal adoption by the TWDB Board), identify water supply needs, and evaluate and recommend water management strategies that address those needs over the 50-year planning horizon.

Additionally, the planning groups must for the first time address several new issues during this round of planning. They must report on the status of implementing State Water Plan projects, must identify drought triggers and emergency alternative sources of water, incorporate modeled available groundwater from the desired future condition process and consider environmental flow standards set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Final adopted regional plans are due to TWDB November 1, 2015. Only after these steps are completed will TWDB begin developing the next State Water Plan.

With the creation of regional water planning groups, Texas communities have benefited greatly. The regional approach has allowed for more local involvement, has increased regional partnerships, and has produced data that are more accurate and reliable. Smaller communities that may not have been aware of their drought risks now have more resources to help them avoid the consequences of drought. And most importantly, Texas has a comprehensive plan to conserve and efficiently develop our water resources with consensus from all stakeholders.

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