State Water Plan January 2012
Most people don't think too much about water; they just turn on their taps and the water flows. Unless…the water supply that feeds those taps runs dry. In the past year, courtesy of the state's record-breaking drought, most Texans have experienced water restrictions that forced them to think about and use water a little differently.
While the drought was unfolding, the Texas Water Development Board was also working on the State Water Plan. In 1996, on the heels of another serious drought, the Texas Legislature instituted a regional water planning process that ensures the state is regularly reviewing its water resources, not just when the taps threaten to run dry. The process culminates in a State Water Plan every five years and helps address the great challenges Texas faces with its water supplies by identifying potential water shortages and recommending strategies to create additional supplies.
On January 5, the Texas Water Development Board delivered to the governor the third plan developed through this process, the 2012 State Water Plan. The report conveys a somber message: in drought conditions, Texas does not have enough water.
Not only are existing water supplies projected to decline by 10 percent by 2060, but the state's population is expected to grow 82 percent, from 25.4 million to 46.3 million. The nexus of a growing population and diminishing water supplies means that by 2060, the state is projected to have water shortages of 8.3 million acre-feet per year during a severe drought if no further water supplies are developed.
To address those shortages, the state's 16 regional water planning groups recommended 562 strategies to create additional water supplies at an estimated total cost of $53 billion. These costs consist of the funds needed to permit, design, and construct projects, with the majority of the costs used to meet the needs of residential, commercial, and institutional water users across Texas. Of the $53 billion, an estimated $27 billion will need to come from financial assistance provided by the state. The $53 billion needed to implement the state water plan is, however, only about a quarter of the total needs for water supplies, water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment and collection, and flood control required for the state in the next 50 years.
If drought of record conditions recur and water management strategies identified in the State Water Plan are not implemented, the state could suffer significant economic losses. By the year 2060, lost income to Texas businesses and workers could reach $116 billion, and 1.1 million jobs could be lost. Over half of the state's population would face a water need of at least 45 percent of their demand by 2060 during a drought of record.
"In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises. As the state continues to experience rapid growth and declining water supplies, implementation of the plan is crucial to ensure public health, safety, and welfare and economic development in the state,” TWDB Chairman Edward G. Vaughan said.
To date, the TWDB has provided over $1 billion in low-interest loans and grants to implement 46 projects across the state that were named as water management strategies in the 2007 State Water Plan. These projects will supply over 1.5 million acre-feet of water needed during times of drought to millions of Texans.