Texas less thirsty than thought?

Texas is thirsty for more water, which seems to be a given when you consider the state’s booming population growth and the demand on water infrastructure that comes with more people.

Is it as thirsty as previously thought? That is the multibillion-dollar question being kicked around by water experts from Amarillo to Austin.


The Texas Tribune’s Neena Satija reports that earlier estimates of the state’s water needs might have been overstated. Some new projections bring into question whether the state needs to spend all it intends on infrastructure improvements.

Here’s a bit of what Satija reported for the Tribune: “The 2012 state water plan — the state’s strategy for meeting water needs — estimated that Texas would face a shortfall of 2.7 trillion gallons of water a year by 2060, and that filling the gap would take an estimated $53 billion in new infrastructure.”

“But some water law and planning specialists believe that number is too high. A report for the nonprofit Texas Center for Policy Studies, an environmental research group, says that Texas would only need an additional 1.1 trillion gallons of water a year by 2060. That’s in part because, according to the report, state water planners have overestimated the needs for water from the agricultural industry and from cities. Plus, it says, the plan underestimated the effects of water conservation measures.”

I love where it says the state might “only need an additional 1.1 trillion gallons of water a year by 2060.” Only 1.1 trillion?

That’s still a lot of water, by my reckoning.

Whatever the estimates, it appears that legislators, the new governor and the new lieutenant governor — whoever they are — will have some critical decisions to make when the 2015 Legislature convenes.

Nailing down these estimates appears to be almost as tricky as trying to project state budget surpluses or deficits so far in advance.

This is serious stuff, according to the Tribune. The Tribune’s analysis continues: “If the state’s water needs are far lower than projected, the implications for state policy could be significant. In November, in the throes of a historic drought, voters approved spending $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help finance sources of new water supplies. Good data is crucial for sustainable water planning, the report’s authors say, and relying on inaccurate information could have severe consequences.”

The drought appears to be tightening its grip on West Texas. Fort Worth and Dallas are looking at mandatory water conservation measures. El Paso, San Antonio and Corpus Christi are facing potentially dire straits regarding their water supplies.

Here’s my final thought: The 2015 Legislature needs to place water management, conservation and research into finding more of it at the very top of its agenda.

First things first, though. Let’s get the right estimates on precisely what our state will need in the future.


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