Water is essential to the future of Texas. The state’s rapid growth, diverse economy, thriving agricultural and industrial sectors all demand a reliable, sufficient, safe, and affordable source of water. However, Texas is facing increasingly intense environmental and socioeconomic pressures on its water resources.
Of Texas’ 16 Water Planning Regions, 11 are expected to increase their demand for water between 2020 and 2070, largely due to population growth. This demand driven by population growth will primarily be in water use by municipal or public water systems, which disproportionately utilize surface water sources. In 2020, 46% of water from surface water sources went toward municipal use, compared to 18% of groundwater. Irrigation dominated groundwater usage, making up for 75% of the groundwater used in the state. Varied supply and demand of water is linked to the significant differences in the climate across the state. West Texas and the panhandle are arid and more reliant on groundwater sources compared to the humid region of East Texas, which has relatively more abundant surface water.
Both ground and surface water sources are under threat. Across the state, groundwater is being produced, or pumped and treated, at 1.8 times the maximum sustainable amount. That production is projected to increase to 2.4 times the maximum sustainable amount in 2070. Surface water depletion is dependent on rainfall, which varies widely across the state and is anticipated to become more uncertain due to climate change. The Texas Water Development Board’s 2022 State Water Plan states that rainfall often comes in the form of extreme, short-lived events that cause flooding and limit the ability for surface water sources to be restored and reliable. Groundwater depletion can also affect surface water, as groundwater that would otherwise feed streamflow is removed. Ground and surface water sources are also under threat from failing or insufficient septic and wastewater systems.
The approval of Senate Bill 28, creating the Texas Water Fund, along with provisions such as the “Safe Harbor” provision in House Bill 3232 during the 88th Texas Legislature’s Regular Session are important steps toward Texas’ water future. Texas Water Infrastructure: A Practitioner’s View, presents the challenges and opportunities to address Texas’ water infrastructure needs.