The availability of water is becoming is becoming more important each year as more and more people flock to the Lone Star State. It is one of those resources we tend to take for granted until we find ourselves in the middle of extreme drought. We have generally accepted the premise that water is a commodity that will always be in abundant supply … but that is certainly not the case.
Experts with the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) have projected that the demand for water could rise to 21.6 million acre-feet by 2060. They say that if the population of Texas continues to grow at the current rate, a drought in the year 2060 that matches the drought of record experienced during the 1950’s will result in 83 percent of the state’s population being without water. Under that scenario, they say, the state’s economy would suffer a staggering blow with at least $116 billion in lost revenue.
The Texas Legislature is poised to take a serious look at the state’s water situation during the next regular session. It remains uncertain, though, as to whether state politicos will be able to find sufficient funding to implement a statewide water management plan. As the economy continues a sluggish recovery, legislators are already burdened with the task of trying to fund expanding national health care provisions and education.
The size of the state contributes greatly to the challenge of implementing a meaningful water plan. Rainfall generally averages 10 inches in the west and up to 55 inches in the east. Temperatures can range from an average 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the Panhandle to more than 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In most areas of the state, evaporation rates exceed average precipitation.
Texas water supplies come in two forms: surface water and ground water. Surface water as rivers and streams supply about 40 percent of the state’s water supply. Other surface water is available as river basins and man-made lakes. Ground water is found in nine major and 21 minor aquifers. Some aquifers, such as the Edwards Aquifer in Central Texas, are recharged by rainfall, but recharge is not sufficient to meet demand. Other aquifers, such as the Ogallala in the High Plains, are not recharged by rainfall because they exist below an impermeable layer of soil that does not permit rain water to flow into the aquifer.
Realizing that agriculture is greatly dependent upon the availability of sufficient supplies of water, members of the Texas Agriculture Council (TAC) have formed a subcommittee to discuss the future water needs for agriculture in the state over the next several decades. The subcommittee will be looking at current available water supplies relative to need, and will be investigating ways to improve water use efficiency in agricultural regions. The group will also look at the economic significance of the agricultural industries to the state, and will seek to educate legislators and the general public about agricultural water use.
The task of addressing the future water needs of the state will not be easy. It will take the combined efforts of all Texans to work towards a solution to ensure the continued economic prosperity of the state.