Monthly Featured Story - December 2014 | Texas Water Development Board

Population and demand projections make responsible water planning possible December 2014

Determining population and water demand projections is one of the first and most crucial steps in Texas' water planning process. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) uses these projections to identify potential water shortages and the strategies needed to address those shortages in Texas in the next 50 years.

"To plan for Texas' future, we've got to know how much water we're using and how much we will need," said TWDB Board member Kathleen Jackson. "These projections add long-term sustainability to our water planning process, and Texans will be better served because of the data our scientific and regional experts are collecting."

The drought of 2011 spotlighted the effects of the state's rapid population growth and the limitations of our water supplies. That drought, the driest one-year drought on record, spurred unprecedented efforts to ensure the responsible management of the Lone Star State's water resources. Looking to prevent being squeezed dry, Texans went to the polls in November 2013 to approve the use of $2 billion to invest in a funding program (the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT) for water projects outlined in the TWDB's 2012 State Water Plan.

In the 2012 State Water Plan, the state's 16 regional water planning groups identified more than 3,000 water strategies and projects across Texas to help meet the state's water needs. All projects were developed using input from a combination of regional and statewide population and water demand projections.

Because population and water demand projections are critical to the planning process, the data is collected annually and used to develop the projections early in each five-year cycle of regional water planning. The TWDB has already approved projections for the 2016 regional water plans that will be the basis for the 2017 State Water Plan. The new projections extend through 2070 and tell much the same story as the 2012 State Water Plan: The overall population of Texas is still projected to increase substantially (a 73 percent increase between 2020 and 2070), and every new Texan will need water in their home, in their yard, and for their business, community, or agricultural needs. Water demand is expected to increase 17 percent in the same 50-year timeframe.

"Almost 1,000 people are moving to Texas each day, and none of them are bringing water with them," said TWDB Board Chairman Carlos Rubinstein. "Knowing what to expect in terms of growth is critical to making smart, responsible, and affordable decisions that will ensure Texans have water today, tomorrow, and into the future."

Although population and water demand are projected to increase statewide, population projections will vary by regional water planning area and water use category. The steepest increase in population and water demand is projected to occur in the state's larger cities. Municipal water demand is expected to increase from 5.2 to 8.4 million acre-feet per year, a 62 percent increase. Demand for agricultural irrigation water, in contrast, is projected to decrease from 9.4 to 7.8 million acre-feet per year.

"Texans from every corner of this state are looking for the best way to take care of their community's water needs," said TWDB Board member Bech Bruun. "With the funding opportunities now available through SWIFT, the TWDB's population and water demand projections will shape projects that reflect the wide-ranging needs of Texas' unique cities and towns."

TWDB Chairman Rubinstein and Board members Bruun and Jackson have traveled across Texas to learn first-hand the varying water situations of the people of Texas. Doug Shaw, Agricultural and Rural Texas Ombudsman for the TWDB, has logged more than 25,000 miles on country roads since January 2014.

The Board, in addition to Shaw and many other staff members that traverse the state, embraces the proactive work that must be done to ensure that Texas has a sufficient water supply now, and in Texas' ever-growing future.