News & Insights

Water Resources: Planning and Management

Water Resources: Planning and Management

By 2070 it’s estimated that 50 million people will call themselves Texans. They will all need water. So will the places they want to work. So will pools and golf courses. They will want to eat, too, and that requires water. There are other demands, including the environment. 

More than 480 current residents already participate in our regional water planning groups. That is quite a welcoming committee, and nothing says welcome like planning for their arrival. The State Water Implementation Fund for Texas was initiated in 2015, and since that time helped finance more than 50 recommended projects that will provide 1.5-million-acre feet of additional water supply. But that’s just a start.

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Planning for the Future

And that's why our plan and our planning is an iterative, ongoing process. Though 2015 was a scant eight years ago, the world is a different place. Today there is widespread recognition that our climate has changed and with it, the prevailing weather patterns. The result has been longer, deeper, and wider droughts, as well as drenching, unpredictable rains. Tornadoes, sleet, and hurricanes are stronger and more frequent as well. This changes how we plan, what we need to plan for, how we manage natural disasters, and how we invest in resilience to ensure that recovery is efficient.

Our State Water Plan inventories current supplies and estimates what they may provide in the future. Nevertheless, surface and groundwater are both dependent on rainfall, and the weather will be unpredictable in the future.

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Is Conservation the Key?

There are no crystal balls to tell us what the future holds for Texas. For now, we can be more efficient with the water we have and the water we think we’ll have. Conservation is for everyone, indoors and outdoors, in business and agriculture. Conservation needs to be a basic value and behavior for every Texan.

There’s reuse, of course, including using it for irrigation and rehydration. Texas has been a leader in turning reuse into drinking water, closing our water loops, and making our systems more efficient. There’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery, where geology makes that workable, and desalination may be necessary. However, desalination needs to be more energy efficient. Reservoirs are needed to collect drenching rain when we have them and use that water when there is no rain.

All sectors will need affordable quality water, including our environment. Our investment to date is laudable, but it’s just a start. This is 2023, but these projections are looking toward 2070. We have some time, but not much.

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About the Authors

Carlos Rubinstein

Water Policy Consultant, Anser Advisory

Carlos Rubinstein Grey

Rubinstein is an expert on Texas water policy. As chairperson of the Texas Water Development Board (2013-2015) he oversaw the implementation of the $2 billion State Water Infrastructure Fund. (SWIFT). He is a Board Member of the Texas Water Foundation and the Texas Water Trade. Rubinstein has served as the Texas representative to the Western States Water Council, and the Border Governors' Conference Sustainable Development worktable. Rubinstein served as a commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from 2009–2013. He is a former deputy executive director of TCEQ and Rio Grande Watermaster. Rubinstein has appeared as an expert witness on various environmental cases and has published several peer-reviewed articles on Texas water policy. He is a former city manager for the City of Brownsville. Rubinstein earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Pan American University.