Cool Water, Part 2

Posted on March 10, 2015 by Paul Seals

In a December 2012 blog post, I discussed the tensions raised by “Water for Texas 2012 State Water Plan” between the expected population growth and available water resources in Texas.   As water demand is expected to rise, existing water supplies are diminishing.   

These critical water supply constraints are again brought into sharp focus by the population projections contained in a March 5, 2015 report released by the Office of State Demographer.   The 40-year projections (2010 to 2050) indicate that if the migration patterns observed in Texas between 2000 and 2010 continue at the same rate, the population of Texas will double, representing a significant increase in projections contained in the 2012 State Water Plan.  The projected water resource shortages will be exacerbated.   

The 2012 State Water Plan, based on a 50-year horizon, projected a 2060 population of 46.3 million.  New population numbers, based on the recent migration patterns, project an increase from the 2010 Census population of 25.1 million to a 2050 population of 54.4 million.   

For the past 10 years, Texas experienced the largest annual population growth of any state.  Will the Texas economy maintain its strength to support job growth that will attract young workers from around the country and the world?   Can the associated high net migration be sustained?  What will be the impact of this growth?  How will the environmental impacts be anticipated and managed?   

The areas of fastest growth include the areas in and around Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin/San Antonio, and Houston.   Cities in those areas are making plans to secure long-term water supplies.   Will they be successful?  Will regulatory changes have to be made to surface and groundwater water rights to effectively and efficiently acquire, manage, and conserve these limited water resources?  Will the infrastructure be there?   How will it be financed?  

Will Texas have “cool, clear water”? 

Cool Water

Posted on December 11, 2012 by Paul Seals

The song “Cool Water” was written and recorded in 1936 by Bob Nolan, an original member of the Sons of the Pioneers along with Len Slye, better known by his film name, Roy Rogers.  “Cool Water” could be the theme song for Texas and other water-short western states.  The Texas Water Development Board recently compiled “Water for Texas 2012 State Water Plan”.   Quite simply, Texas does not have enough water to meet its current needs, much less its future needs, during periods of serious drought conditions.   Texas is searching for cool, clear water.

Texas continues to grow.  According to the Plan, the population of Texas is expected to increase 82 percent between 2010 and 2060, from 25.4 million to 46.3 million.   Water needs are projected to increase by 22 percent, from 18 million acre-feet per year to 22 million acre feet per year in 2060.  At the same time as water demand is rising, existing water supplies are diminishing by almost 2 million acre feet per year.   Where will the additional water supplies be found to meet the identified needs?

The State Water Plan includes recommended water management strategies developed by regional planning groups, which include: conservation, drought management, conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, surface water reservoirs, aquifer storage, groundwater development, water reuse, desalination plants.  In addition to addressing surface and groundwater water rights, water planners and users will need to confront the environmental implications of these strategies.  What are the environmental regulatory constraints and impediments?

The implications and potential conflicts are far-reaching.  We can all anticipate the obvious regulatory hurdles,  contested procedures and property rights obstacles that projects to develop new surface reservoirs will confront.  But what of other strategies like water conservation and reuse?    Proposing water conservation (e.g. increased cooling water cycles) and reuse (e.g. use of treated municipal wastewater effluent) at a natural-gas fired power plant may  threaten surface water quality as the total dissolved solids to be discharged are concentrated through these strategies.   Also, what kinds of measures and alternatives under other environmental regulatory programs (e.g. Endangered Species Act) will need to be considered as these strategies are proposed?

The history of Texas is growth.   To do nothing to meet its increasing  water needs would result in staggering economic losses.    Texas met the challenge after the drought of record in the 1950s.  Texas will do it again!   The question is:  “how happy will the trails be?”