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The state of water in Texas

The Statesman has a long story about the state of water in Texas and its outlook for the future. Short summary: We’re going to need more than what we’re capable of getting now, and it’s going to cost a lot of money to bridge the shortfall.

2012 State Water Plan

“For most of our recent history, we just treated (water) as if we had an unlimited supply of it. We’re finding to our dismay that that’s not true,” said Andrew Sansom, executive director of the River Systems Institute at Texas State University.

One clear indication that Texans need to rethink how they value water came when the state asked for $53 billion in improvements to prepare the state for a record-breaking drought in the next 50 years.

The cheapest strategy in the Texas Water Development Board’s 2012 water plan is conservation, which would account for 24 percent of the new supply by 2060; the costliest, desalination, would account for about 3.4 percent of the new supply.

But the prospect of a future crisis doesn’t necessarily make consumers more willing to open their wallets.

“It can be hard to convince ratepayers that they need to pay more money to get that security in their supply,” said Robert Mace, the board’s deputy executive administrator for water science and conversation.

It may come as little surprise, then, that lawmakers have failed to ensure sustainable funding for the water plan.

“I don’t think there’s been a greater dereliction of duty” than failing to fund Texas water needs, state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas , said Jan. 10 in a Business and Commerce Committee hearing, where lawmakers were told that a dwindling water supply can also affect the state power grid, as most energy production relies heavily on water to cool power plants.

You can find the 2012 State Water Plan here if you want a little light reading for your bedside table. We’ve talked about a lot of this stuff before as well – conservation, desalinization, reuse and recycling, infrastructure, and so forth. I’ll refer you again to the Drop By Drop and Sprayed Away reports, as well as the 2011 Regional Water Plan. I truly believe we need to be doing a lot more now to push conservation, because it’s not only the cheapest solution, it also buys us time for implementing the solutions that require capital investment. I strongly believe in tiering water prices in a way that rewards those who use less and charges a premium to those who use the most. I also believe in educating people about ways they can easily reduce their own water usage. One example is capturing rainwater for later use on gardens or lawns. You can buy a decent-sized rain barrel for $150 or less and use your sprinkler less. Every little bit helps, and if you want to avoid seeing future surcharges on your water bill, you’ll need to start thinking of what you can do. NewsTaco has some further reading.

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2 Comments

  1. Tiffany Tyler says:

    Water use reduction, especially for landscaping, has multiple fronts:

    1) Plant drought tolerant and native species. These plants are adapted to using less water. As you change your landscaping, move toward the more tolerant species.

    2) Wean your existing landscape off excessive watering. Even your St. Augustine lawn needs only a fraction of what most people give them. Let your grass grow a little higher to shade its roots (an extra inch makes all the difference). Water slowly and deeply, with less frequency, and your plants will look better and be stronger.

    3) Turn off the sprinkler. Use a soaker hose or a watering can to put the water right on the roots of your landscape plants.

    4) When you water, be smart about when you do it. Before 9 am or after 6 or 7 pm works best in summer, and the water stays with the plants instead of evaporating in the heat of the day.

    5) Recycle water around your house. Rain barrels are great, and you can make one for a lot less than $150. http://www.houstonarboretum.org/rainbarrels.asp And did you know the condensate from your central AC unit can be up to 10 gallons a day? That’s a lot of landscape watering, if you design a collection system.

    Want to see how some of this works? Ask Kuff to show you his own yard.

  2. […] Here’s a reminder about the state’s long term water plan. The story says that per capita water capacity peaked in the 1970s after several reservoirs were built and have declined since then. A multi-year drought like the one we had in the 1950s that spurred the construction of those new reservoirs, would be devastating. The fact that we’ve had a good amount of rain so far this year doesn’t mean we’re out of danger for that. There was a bill to deal with this in the Lege last year, but it involved imposing a fee to raise the money for the capital projects, and that never went anywhere. If the drought has mostly eased by next year, it seems unlikely that there will be any sense of urgency on this; certainly, with Rick Perry pushing budget suicide pact, it’s hard to see where the leadership to undertake something like this will come from. If drought conditions have worsened by then…boy, I don’t even want to think about that. The TM Daily Post has more. […]

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