Texas ranks first among states for the variety and frequency of its natural disasters. While tornadoes, hailstorms, floods, and wildfires can occur unexpectedly, another type of disaster operates by stealth. It creeps in slowly and takes months to fully form and deliver a punishing strike. It’s the dreaded D word—drought.
Come summer, people flock to the Comal River in New Braunfels like bees to honey. They are drawn to its clear water, shady banks, and gentle, meandering course that invites the incomparable pleasure of floating in an inner tube. What better way to spend a hot day than to lean back, glide downstream, and watch the clouds drift by?
The Texas of 10,000 years ago was different from the Texas of today. There were no glistening skyscrapers or churning oil derricks; no frustrating traffic jams or buzzing airports; or no all-knowing interwebs or sizzling Whataburgers (ah, yes: the good ‘ole days—except for the lack of Whataburgers!). But Texas was like the Texas of today in that there was water—and there were people that relied upon it.
Across its vast landscape, Texas has lakes of all sizes, many of which are admired for the special value they bring to the local community, be it recreation, tourism, or natural beauty. No doubt, these lakes are an asset, but were they built for our recreation and enjoyment? Not so much.
At the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), we look forward to receiving applications for project funding—it means water providers are taking action to meet the water and wastewater needs in their communities. We know from decades of supporting communities' project planning and implementation efforts that this is no easy task. Sometimes it makes sense for communities to look beyond their own borders to solve their water challenges by collaborating with other nearby communities. Types and structures of partnerships may vary, but the end goal is the same: to provide affordable, reliable water and wastewater services to Texans now and in the future.
With Texas' population increasing and water supplies decreasing over the next 50 years, controlling water loss is a key strategy that utilities (and homeowners) can implement to help ensure water supplies are being managed as efficiently as possible. Identifying water loss in a system is one of a utility's first lines of defense, and the Texas Water Development Board's (TWDB) Water Loss Audit is an important tool to help utilities do just that.
With 55 percent of Texas experiencing drought as of February 27, it may be hard to believe that the state's traditionally wettest months—May and June across much of Texas—are just around the corner, followed by the start of the rainfall season for the western part of the state in July. And then comes August, just five months from now, marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, when violent winds and torrential rainfall turned lives upside down.
Throughout history, people have stared up at the sky trying to convince the weather to work in their favor. While still an option for hopeful Texans, nowadays we have technology and tools that forecast long- and short-term weather patterns. When it comes to our water supply, weather—in particular, precipitation—plays a critical role. The TWDB uses several weather resources and forecasting tools that are available to all Texans, whether you’re planning a weekend at the lake, preparing to plant a garden, or just plain interested in weather.
Just like that, another year in the books. And what an eventful year it was! 2017 was full of numerous financial, scientific, and other water accomplishments at the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). But we also spent a lot of time wrestling with Mother Nature and the perpetual contrast of too much water and too little water: flood and drought. For many Texans, one natural disaster in particular may forever define the year 2017.
Water is a year-round priority for the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), as it is for many Texans. But we understand that there can be many competing priorities during the holiday season. That's why we've outlined 12 simple ways to keep water top of mind—and to make it even easier, you just need to focus on one daily topic or action during the next 12 days. Whether you only have five minutes each day or are looking forward to cashing in on extra time during commitment-free vacation days, we're certain you'll be glad that you made time for the 12 Days of Water.
In November, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will celebrate our 60th anniversary. The Texas Legislature created the agency in the aftermath of the state's worst recorded drought, occurring from 1950 to 1957, to help provide Texas with reliable water supplies. That charge has endured as the agency's core mission.
Ghouls, goblins, and ghosts—oh my! It's the Halloween season (still waiting on cool weather) so this month we're featuring spooktacular water myths. Scary!
This month, in recognition of back to school, we're going back to the basics: the water cycle. As most of us learned in school, the water cycle is a natural process that continuously moves water throughout the earth, from the oceans and plants up to the sky and back down again. But the water cycle may not be something we all actively think about when we ask the question, "Where does our water come from?"
In the first part of this two-part series, we explored the early history of Texas through 1950. Water helped define where people lived, when they moved, and whether they survived. Water has always been the main, but sometimes invisible, character in our colorful history. The story of Texas water is the story of Texas—and we are still writing it with every action taken (or not taken) today.
Throughout the history of Texas, water has helped define where people lived, when they moved, and whether they survived. Water has always been the main—but sometimes invisible—character in our colorful history. The story of Texas water is the story of Texas.
History tells us that floods have occurred all across Texas. Geography and weather patterns tell us that some areas are more prone to flood than others. But no matter the location or frequency of flood, all Texans can agree that safety and survival are top priorities when flood comes to town. A community's ability to respond to flood starts well before the rain starts to fall. Accurate flood forecasts and early warning systems can mean the difference between lives lost and lives saved.
Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is a water supply and storage solution that is gaining traction in Texas and providing beneficial results for entities with active ASR systems. ASR is the use of an aquifer to store water from a different source or location during times when water is available, and the recovery of that water during times of need. The same well can be used for both putting water into an aquifer and taking it out.
With all the economic and population growth Texas continues to experience, the need for innovative approaches to developing and sustaining water supply has never been greater. Water providers throughout the state are taking action, combining innovative science with planning and smart financing to achieve effective solutions for their communities. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is an active partner with many of these communities, providing our scientific and planning expertise and financial assistance to help translate ideas into water flowing through taps.
When we talk about meeting the future water needs of our state, one of the most fundamental questions that has to be answered is, "Where will the water come from?" We depend on science to help us answer that question. Because no one is able to create water to fulfill demands, the water that's currently on Earth is what we are limited to. As a result, we have to be creative and knowledgeable in how we identify and use the water we already have.
When Texans band together with a shared purpose, real opportunity presents itself to create impactful change. And there's no time like the present to begin tackling current water challenges and planning for the future. Armed with the 2017 State Water Plan in our back pockets, months of coordination behind us, and a bright outlook on what we can accomplish together, the TWDB welcomed more than 550 attendees, speakers, and sponsors to Austin for the Water for Texas 2017 conference held Jan. 23–25. The conference theme, "Innovation at Work," was a central message in panels, presentations, demonstrations, and keynote remarks reminding everyone what Texans are capable of achieving.
The 2011 statewide drought is ranked as the most severe one-year drought on record. In the five years that followed, 16 regional water planning groups throughout the state worked diligently to develop regional water plans that would form the basis for the 2017 State Water Plan to ensure Texans can face an even more severe drought in the next 50 years.
Texas is a big state with diverse water needs, and the TWDB has the resources to serve communities no matter their situation. We're dedicated to helping provide water for all of Texas—and that includes rural Texas, which makes up 12 percent of our population. Even small towns can have big water needs!
Throughout history, maps have enabled people to explore and document new places, pursue hidden treasure, and delineate property ownership boundaries, among many other things. Today, maps are still used for these purposes, but their development and uses have come a long way from hand drawn to computer generated. With today's technology, maps empower people to discover, travel, and learn in ways that haven't always been possible—and at the touch of a finger.
Summer seems to fly by even faster and hotter each year, and it's hard to believe that school is back in session! Ease into the new school year with some water ABC's. Don't worry; there's not a quiz at the end, but water is a year-round, A-to-Z subject in Texas, so study up! And there's plenty more where this came from on our website.
Known for beautiful beaches and entertainment for all ages, the Texas Gulf Coast draws Texans and non-Texans alike year-round. In addition to vacationers, something else is drawn to the 367 miles of Texas coastline between the Louisiana border and the Rio Grande Valley: water!
Summertime and Texas sunsets go hand in hand. Like cowboys and cattle. Brisket and barbecue sauce. Windmills and water towers. Ah, windmills and water towers, two icons that don't often receive the acknowledgment they deserve for their role in Texas' past, present, and future water supply. That's why we're giving them a shout out—a whole month of recognition, actually. We're taking a virtual road trip via Instagram, and we'll be on the lookout for Texas windmills and water towers. Everyone is invited to participate! But first, learn more about them below.
Flood. A topic that has been fresh on the minds of Texans most of this past year and certainly in recent months. It's a subject that's not only affecting rural areas of the state, but one that has also caused terrible loss and devastation in major metropolitan areas. And floods are not centralized to one part of the state. Small towns. Big cities. They can all find themselves in high water.
Groundwater is defined as water beneath the surface of the land. Most groundwater is found in aquifers, which are underground layers of rock, sand, and gravel that collect and transfer water. Because groundwater is an important water supply for many Texans, it is critical for Texans to understand this water resource.
You may be familiar with the nursery rhyme, "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day," but you probably won't hear that from anyone who is a rainwater harvester. The practice of collecting rainwater dates back thousands of years, but a recent renewed interest in rainwater harvesting has occurred in many areas of the country, including Texas.
Agriculture is as intertwined with Texas history as barbed wire and cowboy boots. Although it's important to our history, agriculture is critical to the Texas economy. Farmers and ranchers provide us with crops, commodities, and livestock that translate to the food we eat, clothes we wear, and products we use. Like most industries in our state, agriculture requires water. Because it is the largest water user in the state, maximizing agriculture's efficiency and supporting Texas farmers is an important part of the mission of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).
Resting under Texas, there is more than 2.7 billion acre-feet of brackish groundwater in the state's minor and major aquifers. To put that into perspective, the total conservation capacity (water supply) for reservoirs monitored by the Texas Water Development Board (TWBD) is 31.3 million acre-feet. That means there is nearly 90 times as much brackish groundwater residing under the state than what would be currently available through our state's reservoirs if they were all full.
What a year it's been for Texas! The state experienced almost every imaginable type of weather. Areas of Texas that had been parched for years saw their reservoirs fill with much needed rainfall, while other parts of the state are still thirsty, and still others are recovering from floods. Much of the state bounced back and forth from drought to flood and back again. No matter what the weather brings, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is here to provide affordable and sustainable water for all Texans.
By the end of the state's fiscal year in August 2015, the TWDB had funded more than $19 billion in projects since the agency was established in 1957. The broad spectrum and flexibility of our cost-effective financial assistance programs are among the chief benefits we offer communities. Our programs vary by financing terms, funding needs (planning, design, acquisition, and construction), and by the length of the financial commitment.
In just a few weeks, on December 1, final adopted drafts of the 2016 regional water plans will be submitted to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). On this same day, the TWDB will open the application process for its second round of funding from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).
The mystery: a high water bill. The clue: a leaky faucet. The victim: Texas water. Fortunately for Colonel Mustard, all he's guilty of is fixing a problem that plagues far too many Texas homes. The real culprit in this case is negligent water use.
This past Memorial Day, on a pasture slowly being engulfed by floodwaters, about 400 cows grazed close together, the dry land around them disappearing. There seemed to be no obvious route to higher ground. Fortunately for the cows, Texans have access to detailed elevation information from the Texas Natural Resources Information System, or TNRIS (pronounced ten-ris). Using its area elevation information, TNRIS helped plot the route for a good, and safe, old-fashioned cattle drive.
To power our expanding economy and support our growing population, Texas is investing in affordable and sustainable water projects. The cheapest water is the water we already have, which is why conservation remains the bedrock of our water development efforts in Texas. Almost 35 percent of the supply volume from current state water plan projects needed to help ensure Texans have water for the next 50 years...
Drought is coming. Based on our history, Texans can be sure of it. Texas has experienced a drought in every decade of the 20th century and research tells us that decade-long droughts have occurred in Texas since the 1500s. The recent rainfall in Texas is not a return to normalcy — it is a luxury, and we must take advantage of every drop.
After years of historic drought, it was historic flooding that had devastating effects throughout Texas this Memorial Day. Although we cannot reverse the damage that's been done throughout Houston, the Hill Country, and many other parts of the state, we can take steps to prepare for next time.
The health of our state's rivers affects the simple pleasures of many Texans. Fishing, tubing, and enjoying nature's beauty all rely on maintaining the complex ecosystems of our rivers. Not only do they harbor a variety of species and volumes of nutrients, but they support our economy through tourism, outdoor recreation, water supply, and many other industries. To ensure our rivers remain healthy, Texas has made studying and understanding their intricate ecosystems a priority.
Sedimentation is the term used to describe what happens when these bits of rock and dirt settle to the bottom of the lake. Sedimentation occurs in reservoirs as soon as they are built and begin to capture and store water. In Texas, this means sedimentation has been taking place for many years. Unfortunately, sedimentation causes reservoirs to lose some of their capacity over time. Since more than half of the available surface water in Texas is stored in reservoirs, it is critical to identify sedimentation's impact on the capacity of this water supply source.
Understanding groundwater is critical when discussing water in Texas. Groundwater and surface water supply most of Texas' water, and the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) studies both to support the water planning process with as much scientific background as possible.
In the last several months, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT, has been a major topic of discussion in Texas' world of water financing. The steps taken by regional water planning groups, state legislators, Texas voters, and the Board members and staff of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to build this specific financial assistance program were unprecedented and will result in historic levels of funding for water projects across the state.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is seeking to make advancements in water that will benefit Texans and set the standard for the sustainable and affordable development of water throughout the world. And just as Alexander Graham Bell significantly improved his own invention, the TWDB is transforming itself from the agency it was when created in 1957.
"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."
Almost exactly one year ago, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT. Introduced by the 83rd Texas Legislature during the 2013 legislative session, SWIFT enabled the one-time investment of $2 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to provide low-cost loans for water projects in Texas. Additionally, the legislature called for at least 20 percent of SWIFT to be reserved for conservation and reuse projects and at least 10 percent to be reserved for rural and agricultural projects.
In 1997, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) launched a new process for creating the state water plan. As referenced in TWDB's September feature story, the water planning process from 1957 to 1997 started at the top and trickled its way down to the regional and local level. Then, in 1997, the 75th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1 (SB1), reversing the process to start with input at the regional level, strategizing from the ground up.
The state of Texas endured some form of drought in every decade of the 20th century. Today, with more than half of the state still in the midst of a drought that began in 2010, the 21st century has continued that trend. During times of drought in Texas, the public has helped shape legislation to address evolving water supply needs.
Meet TWDB's new Agricultural and Rural Texas Ombudsman. "The agricultural ombudsman is helping us spread the word to rural communities about the SWIFT and the benefits it will offer to those communities," says TWDB Chairman Carlos Rubinstein. "His effort is a critical part of our SWIFT outreach and our outreach on many other programs."
On Sept. 1, 2013, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) began serving the citizens of Texas under a new management structure with three full-time Board members. Between that time and the successful passage of Proposition 6 on Nov. 5, both the new Board members and agency staff have been hard at work preparing to implement the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and to respond to other new legislation.
Texas, unlike some other parts of the country, is experiencing unprecedented growth. In the U.S. Census Bureau's list of 15 fastest growing large cities, 8 are in Texas.
Development of the state water plan projects is crucial to our mission because it addresses the needs of all water user groups statewide. Texas has water needs, and TWDB is working to solve them.
To consumers across Texas, water conservation might mean installing a rainwater system, taking shorter showers or faithfully following your community's watering schedule. But if you're operating a company that employs thousands of water users, how do you conserve this precious resource-and convince your employees to do the same?
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.
Construction is underway on San Antonio Water System's (SAWS) brackish desalination plant, which is collocated with an aquifer storage and recovery facility.
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.
For over a decade the TWDB has funded both large and small drinking water projects across the state and has proudly provided over $1 billion dollars in financial assistance. The TWDB, in partnership with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, also provides free financial, managerial, and technical assistance.
When floods or hurricanes strike in our state, it's like everything else here: Texas-sized. TWDB's Flood Mitigation Planning Division also works with Texas communities in a big way, by helping them navigate state and federal flood protection grant programs, implement flood mitigation projects, and meet and maintain eligibility requirements in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
In 1999, the TWDB began developing a groundwater availability model to help water planners working on their regional water plans assess how much groundwater was in a portion of the Trinity Aquifer. Largely due to the success of that model, in 2001 the Texas Legislature provided funding for the TWDB to develop additional models for the state's aquifers and TWDB's Groundwater Availability Modeling program began in earnest.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) informs and educates Texans about water conservation and the responsible development of the state's water resources, and one way we do this is through our publications.
Faced with dwindling fresh water supplies and an escalating demand for the resource, water planners and managers in Texas are increasingly turning to non-traditional solutions that can create new supplies or better manage existing ones. These solutions include desalinating salty water, treating and reusing waste water, harvesting rainwater, and implementing more efficient storage solutions such as aquifer storage and recovery (a way to store water underground in times of plenty and recover it during times of need). These innovative strategies are projected to collectively provide about 15 percent (approximately 1.3 million acre-feet) of all new water supplies by the year 2060.
Although parts of Texas are now officially out of or nearly out of drought, over 80 percent of the state is still in the three worst categories of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. With several reservoirs at historic lows, the drought is still a top priority for the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and many other state agencies.
Desired future conditions are defined in Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code as "a quantitative description, adopted in accordance with Section 36.108, of the desired condition of the groundwater resources in a management area at one or more specified future times." Established by the districts within groundwater management areas, desired future conditions are a policy goal, or target, for what conditions the groundwater resources should be in approximately 50 years.
Agriculture is the largest water use sector in Texas. The estimated six million irrigated acres soak up around nine million acre-feet of water each year. Irrigation improves productivity and profitability, further contributing to the overall $100 billion economic impact that the food and fiber industries have on the Texas economy.
The Major Rivers program is a Texas-specific water education tool that provides water supply entities with a cost-effective and proven means of implementing school-based water conservation education. For more than two decades, Major Rivers has been riding his horse Aquifer into 4th and 5th grade classrooms across Texas.
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.
The Texas Water Development Board has been providing low-cost financial assistance for water-related infrastructure projects since 1957. Since 2000 alone, the TWDB has made 1,384 financial commitments for a total of $4.97 billion throughout the entire state. The projects range greatly in cost and scope, but all have a positive impact on the communities they benefit. A few examples of successful TWDB-funded projects include the City of Houston's sewer rehabilitation project, the Potter County Well Field and the City of Eagle Pass' award-winning water and wastewater projects.
The record-breaking drought gripping Texas has vividly demonstrated the need for expanded water supplies and improved infrastructure in Texas. This year, the news has been full of stories about towns struggling to supply enough water for their growing populations and water main breaks occurring in unprecedented numbers in many areas. In the 1950s as a result of the crippling "drought of record," the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) was created to address those very needs.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Conservation Division offers numerous educational programs that build understanding of water conservation and water resources across the state. Throughout the state’s history, Texans have faced many challenges in water management, including the seven-year drought of record in the 1950s and the current record-breaking drought. Given the state’s “bottom-up” approach to water planning, an educated citizenry is vital to the success of water management in our future. The recognition of this is evident in the TWDB’s mission statement: To provide leadership, planning, financial assistance, information, and education for the conservation and responsible development of water for Texas.
As one of the two state agencies primarily responsible for Texas' water resources, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) plays a vital role concerning drought preparedness and response. Successfully weathering a statewide drought primarily depends on effective planning and preparedness. Of course, even the best laid plans become strained when events become more severe than anticipated. In our current drought, which by several metrics is the most severe in history, TWDB staff members have a variety of roles and responsibilities that are aimed at helping Texans mitigate the consequences of lack of rainfall.
Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS) is the state clearinghouse for geographic information and mapping resources. Since its establishment in 1972, TNRIS has served as a hub for data designed to serve as a common reference for state government and the public.