As Texas’ surface water and groundwater resources face booming populations and an intense drought, the state stands at a crossroads.
Water will play a leading role in the state’s future. State leaders and consumers must recognize that if that future is to include the kind of economic growth we’ve come to enjoy, our approach to water will have to include more funding, more conservation, and more willingness to explore new technologies.
For consumers that could mean committing to paying much more for water in the future and using much less. For water suppliers it will mean enabling new ways to use water, like desalination and gray water treatment. And for political leaders, it will mean consensus and leadership like lawmakers displayed during the push to pass Proposition 6.
As John Hofmann, executive vice president of water for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), says “the easy projects have been done.”
This blog post is the final installment of an 8-part series that was published throughout July and August. Visit our Water in Texas page to read all of the articles.
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The good news is that Texas’ regional approach to water management will help the state’s vastly different areas plan for what they need. Legislators and water experts are beginning to see the need for new approaches, such as aquifer storage and recovery. On a consumer level, the notion that all homes must come with a green lawn is becoming outdated, which makes room for much more water-friendly practices and development patterns.
And the passage of Proposition 6 marks the first time the state’s water plan has been funded, and will help much-needed water projects take shape.
There are likely still policy battles ahead; the question of whether interbasin transfers should play a larger role in Texas’ water needs could resurface in the next legislative session. Industry, agriculture, and municipalities will also likely continue to clash over sometimes-dwindling water supplies, as they have over the Brazos River.
New ideas are coming to the table, and Texas should hear them out. Most of all, Texans will have to be open to the compromises it will take to ensure we have the water we need.
“Across the public domain, it’s very difficult right now to have a public discussion about infrastructure,” Hofmann says. “Going forward we’re going to have to become accustomed to paying more for water. Greater expense for water will drive us to be wiser about how we use that resource, and how we apply it to society’s problems, whether it’s water to drink or to support essential businesses.”