Energy Excursions

Is Texas Running Out of Water?

Will Texas run out of water considering projected doubling of population over the next 50 years, continued industrial development, and climate extremes/change? Scientists are concerned because water usage has increased greatly, particularly for municipal purposes (where exponential growth is predicted out to 2070), without regard for depletion of existing water resources. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is one state government agency that takes this matter seriously, researching how water usage has increased over time, and what that may entail for the state’s water resources. The TWDB states that if no additional water sources are developed, almost 33% of the state’s population will lack half the adequate supply needed for municipal water purposes in roughly fifty years from now.1Texas Water Development Board. (n.d.). Chapter 7: 2017 State Water Plan, Water for Texas. Texas Water Development Board. Chapter 7 Water for Texas 2017 State Water Plan. Water scarcity leads to a number of grave issues such as financial loss, job loss, population decline, and even lower education levels. Therefore, water conservation efforts are vital, and adaptation and mitigation measures must be set in place now to combat the consequences. 

Annual water needs, measured in acre-feet, projected from 2020 to 2070.

Municipal water shortages across state population percentages projected for 2070 in comparison to 2020.

Regions where surface water sources are absent, such as desert and semi-arid climates, will be exceptionally vulnerable to water scarcity, given their underlying aquifers are currently being depleted at an alarming rate. The Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies the North Texas Panhandle, has been depleted by more than half in some areas since the early 1970’s alone. Farmers heavily rely on groundwater sources for irrigation purposes in this area.2U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2016, August). What Climate Change Means for Texas. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/climate-change-tx.pdf. 

Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, supplying a significant amount of Texas’ water use, will continue to have an impact on farms.

While the state has not turned a blind eye to the problem of water scarcity, action must be taken now. Several projects have been instituted across the state such as the Texas Living Waters Project. This is a comprehensive action plan incorporating conservation awareness, efforts, and incentives, with the help of municipal water providers.3Texas Living Waters Project. (2019, July 17). Water Conservation. Texas Living Waters Project. https://texaslivingwaters.org/water-conservation Another organization, the Texas Water Foundation, focuses on public advocacy, policy reform for water scarcity issues, and instituting leadership programs for industry professionals for better decision making.4Texas Water Foundation. (n.d.). Carole Baker Water Leadership Institute. Texas Water Foundation. https://www.texaswater.org/leadership. While these conservation efforts can help to mitigate our use of available water sources, we must also turn to new sources that may be used. One controversial solution that could buy Texas time is desalination of brackish groundwater. However, with desalination comes heavy costs. You will have a chance to learn more about desalination techniques and its trajectory of use in the state later in this course. 

What two industry sectors are projected to have relatively low and stable (minimal change) annual water demand projected out to 2070 in Texas? 

Irrigation & Municipal

Incorrect. 

Livestock & Municipal

Incorrect. 

Livestock & Mining

 Correct. 

Image Credits: Texas Water Development Board (TWDB); Shutterstock.com

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