Texas leaders continue to look for ways to manage the state’s most valuable natural resource: water. Recently, planning for the state’s future water needs came into focus during several critical meetings.
The Texas House Committee on Natural Resources took the show on the road, hosting their most recent public hearing at City Hall in Brownsville. The committee took on their fourth interim charge and began the process of evaluating the progress of desalination plants along the Texas Coast.
According to the Texas Desalination Association, there are nearly 100 desalination facilities across Texas. These facilities are producing 138 million gallons of water per day, offering a viable, drought-proof solution to water needs across the state. Texas aquifers hold 2.7 billion acre-feet of brackish groundwater, while the Gulf of Mexico provides an inexhaustible supply of seawater. (An acre-foot is the amount of water that would cover one acre to a depth of one foot.) The new supplies also can free up existing water supplies for other uses and for in-stream flow.
At the hearing, several local leaders testified that coastal communities like Brownsville hold the key for water needs.
“The legislature is concerned and, I think, feels desalination is the future of water for water in Texas,” said John Bruciak, general manager of the Brownsville utility. “Since we are doing it, the future is now here in Brownsville. We take groundwater that’s salty and take the salt out to reverse osmosis and treat that water,” Bruciak said.
Tiffany Huerta of CBS 4 in Browsnville reported that Bruciak’s plant, upon its opening in 2004, produced 7.5 million gallons of drinking water per day from brackish groundwater. Today, the plant has expanded, producing 11 million gallons.
Developing Water Systems
In Weatherford, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) held a presentation for the American Society of Civil Engineers to discuss plans for water conservation and buildup.
Kathleen Jackson, a TWDB member, summed up the situation facing the state in one sentence: “People are moving to Texas and they aren’t bringing water with them.”
As representatives from the partnering organizations discussed various issues, Jackson noted that water conservation, reuse, desalination, aquifer storage and recovery and reservoirs all need to be part of a constantly evolving game plan.
As reported by Jelani Gibson of the Weatherford Democrat, an estimated growth rate of 73 percent is projected for Texas between 2020 and 2070, from 29.5 million to 51 million people, according to TWDB statistics from its 2017 State Water Plan draft.
If that trend holds, current water supply simply will not be enough.
Total needs are projected to increase by 87 percent between 2020 and 2070, from 4.8 million to 8.9 million acre-feet per year, according to the plan.
More than half of that growth is expected to take place in what the TWDB designates as Region C, which includes the DFW Metroplex and surrounding counties.