The Texas Opportunity
Over the next 30 years, Texas’s population is set to double, driving a projected 35 percent increase in municipal water demand.
While cities and industries are well positioned to capture the water they’ll need to enable this growth, downstream water users such as agricultural producers, rural communities and our rivers and bays are less water secure than ever before. Avoiding these potential water shortages will require investments that transcend sectors and enable innovative tools that will work in Texas’ pro-property rights culture.
Despite these daunting challenges, Texas is uniquely positioned to grow without depleting its water resources. In fact, we are better positioned than most western states to deploy markets and innovative technology to achieve long-term water security. We have four critical factors working in our favor:
Flexible Water Rights
Texas has a favorable regulatory environment allowing water-rights holders to be compensated for trading and reallocating their water rights to help meet changing water needs, whether for fast-growing municipalities or environmental flows in rivers.
Diverse Water Resources
Following the severe drought of 2011-14, Texas has invested considerable resources to develop new water resources, including brackish groundwater, treatment and reuse of wastewater, capture/reuse of graywater and rainwater, managed aquifer recharge and desalination. We believe that all of these supply options have a role to play in enabling Texas’ growth, including under-recognized resources like onsite water. Much of future municipal water demand can be met with water that is routinely created by urban development, including stormwater and wastewater. At reasonable expense, these onsite water resources can be captured, treated and reused for onsite needs such as outdoor irrigation and toilet flushing—leaving more water in our aquifers and rivers for other users.
Over the past decade, Texas has invested millions of dollars to understand the state’s water resources and the safe application of new treatment technologies for water management. Texas utilities are already using potable reuse technologies, for example, to treat wastewater for use as drinking water. The state has also invested considerable resources into questions as diverse as how environmental flows in our rivers can be met through infrastructure operations and water rights transactions, and the connections between groundwater and surface water. Continued advancements on these topics can support development of markets capable of creating long-term water security.
Texas has substantial financial resources – public and private, state and federal – that could catalyze innovative water supply efforts across the state. The Texas Water Development Board, one of the best capitalized water banks in the world, manages a half-dozen funds designed to help urban and rural communities meet long-term water needs. Texas is also home to dozens of major corporations, all of them water-dependent, which want to invest in durable water solutions. Altogether, our state’s capital resources can meet the challenge of providing secure water to a growing population—no matter what the future holds.