More people, less water: What will Texas need to keep growing? August 2013
According to data the U.S. Census Bureau released in May 2013, Texas has eight of the country's top 15 fastest growing cities. In fact, no state other than Texas had more than one city on that list. And the population isn't only expanding in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio - cities like Midland, San Marcos and Conroe are experiencing significant increases.
We're fortunate that Texas cities are growing, but during a significant drought (like the one over 90% of the state is currently experiencing), one question comes to mind: How are we going to provide water for all those people?
Every five years, the Texas Water Development Board compiles information from Texas' locally developed 16 regional water plans in developing the state water plan. Among its many purposes, the 2012 State Water Plan projects which areas have the greatest population growth and potential water shortages, and recommends strategies to meet water shortages.
In 2030, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area's water shortages during a severe drought would be more than 10 times the amount of water the city of Lubbock currently uses in a year. The Rio Grande Valley’s water shortage in 20 years would be around today's combined water use for the cities of Irving, Arlington, Brownsville and El Paso.
How will we deal with these shortages? One way is through water projects, such as those TWDB assists with through grants and loans.
Another way is through conservation. By the year 2060, about 34% of the volume of water from recommended strategies would come from conservation and reuse. Many communities are already implementing more effective conservation measures, which can generate substantial water savings. By using measures such as low flow plumbing fixtures and efficient steam-electric plants, the Region C planning area (which includes Tarrant, Dallas Denton, and nearby counties) will save almost 77,000 acre-feet per year by 2020. This volume of water is larger than the storage capacity of Lake Alan Henry, a water source for the City of Lubbock.
With frequent drought, increasing population, growing demand and shrinking supply, Texas communities large and small will need to develop and implement water strategies that will help them survive and grow. It's important that all Texans take an active role in the management of our state’s future resources.