State of Innovation January 2017
There's nothing like the beginning of a new year to encourage reflection on the past and hopefulness for the future. 2016 was a busy year for the TWDB, and we're kicking off 2017 by hosting the Water for Texas conference January 23–25. Water for Texas 2017 will feature prominent and knowledgeable speakers, informative workshops and panels, and compelling conversations. Breakout sessions and demos led by industry leaders and TWDB staff will emphasize advances and innovations as they relate to water technology, data, planning, and more. The conference theme, "Innovation at Work," was inspired by the innovative work our TWDB staff continues to produce and the water achievements we see throughout the state.
As we look forward to Water for Texas 2017 and the sharing of ideas, we are reminded of everything the TWDB accomplished over the last year—some of which will be discussed at the conference.
Advances in technology
- Water Data for Texas: The TWDB introduced the Water Data for Texas website a few years ago with interactive information on reservoirs and drought. The next phase added groundwater, and in 2016 we added the Coastal data section.
- TexasFlood.org: In May the TWDB launched TexasFlood.org, which serves as a centralized location for flood-related data and information on what to do before, during, and after a flooding event. The Flood Viewer provides data on an interactive map so users can look at specific locations and gather time-sensitive data on rising rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs to make informed decisions in the event of heavy rain or flood.
- TexMesonet.org: The TWDB and partners developed and continue to expand the TexMesonet, a network of earth observation stations supplying high-quality data to support flood monitoring and flood forecasting efforts by the National Weather Service, regional river authorities, and local emergency responders.
- LiDAR data acquisition: TNRIS is coordinating projects to acquire new, high-quality LiDAR (elevation) data for the 2016–2017 winter season. LiDAR data has many uses, including precise flood modeling and stream/watershed delineation. These projects support the collaboration of federal, regional, and local governments to jointly acquire data products at a significant cost savings. The projects will employ the new Texas Strategic Mapping (StratMap) contracts executed by the Texas Department of Information Resources and administered by TNRIS.
- Software update: The updating of IT software throughout the agency enabled us to roll out new applications such as Water Data Interactive and the revamped Submitted Driller's Report application.
Improvements to customer service
- Water Loss, Use, and Conservation data applications: The TWDB has been working to host online the water loss audit, water use survey, and conservation plan forms. This will be completed with the release of the third and final online application in January.
- Online Loan Application tool: In 2015, the TWDB launched its Online Loan Application tool. Throughout 2016, improvements and enhancements were completed to provide prospective applicants an easy way to submit their projects for financial assistance. The tool allows users to prepare preliminary project information, complete the agency's financial assistance application, and view in real-time their application's review status.
- Outreach and communication: We're innovating from within to improve customer relations and outreach efforts throughout the state. To better understand communities' needs and strengthen relationships with them, we changed the frequency of our financial assistance workshops. Previously, we held all workshops during a two-month period annually, and now we hold at least one workshop per month throughout the state. Additionally, we created a new outreach team lead position to oversee the current outreach team efforts and serve as another resource to entities throughout the state. To help provide improved service for entities in the Panhandle, we hired a project manager/outreach specialist located in Lubbock.
- Flood protection grants: In August, the TWDB authorized $3.5 million in flood protection grants from the Disaster Contingency Fund for 17 projects around the state. The grants will be used to finance flood early warning systems, flood response strategies, and flood protection planning. To streamline the process for communities, we developed a new type of contract.
Developments in water science
- Brackish groundwater production zones: In response to House Bill 30 (84th Texas Legislature, 2015), the Board designated brackish groundwater production zones in the Carrizo-Wilcox, Gulf Coast, and Rustler aquifers in fall 2016. The 2016 Biennial Report on Seawater and Groundwater Desalination is the first report to discuss progress made in furthering brackish groundwater desalination and identifying and designating brackish groundwater production zones.
- Texas Aquifers Study: The Texas Aquifers Study released in late 2016 presents information on the geology and hydrogeology of the confined and unconfined aquifers of Texas, including the quantity and quality of the groundwater that they contain, the volume of flows from the aquifers to the surface waters of the state, and the volume of flows between the aquifers. The report fulfills the requirements of House Bill 1232 (84th Texas Legislature, 2015).
- Groundwater conditions technical note: In partnership with its cooperators, the TWDB continues to install and monitor automatic water level recorders in observation (recorder) wells throughout the state. The recorder well network complements non-automated groundwater level monitoring programs conducted by groundwater conservation districts and other cooperators. In late 2015, the TWDB published the "Summary of Groundwater Conditions in Texas: Recent (2013–2014) and Historical Water-Level Changes in the TWDB Recorder Network" in order for the data to be available to the public in 2016.
- Rural planning changes: The change to utility-based planning in the regional and state water planning process incorporates more data specific to rural Texans. Approximately 1 million rural Texans will be able to find more detailed information in their regional plans.
- 2017 State Water Plan: The 2017 State Water Plan has been published. The plan provides a roadmap for how to address water needs that will accompany the state's enormous population growth by identifying specific water management strategies for communities across the state. An online, interactive state water plan is also available and provides additional information through customized views of planning data at the local, regional, and statewide level.
2017 is sure to be another productive and eventful year, and all of us at the TWDB look forward to what the new year brings. We hope to see you at Water for Texas 2017!