Securing Texas’ Water Supply for a Drought Proof Future – The Regional Water Supply Planning Process in Texas

Bech Bruun, Chairman, Texas Water Development Board, 1700 North Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78701 bech.bruun@twdb.texas.gov; and Michael V. Reedy, Principal and Vice President, Freese and Nichols, Inc.10497 Town and Country Way, Suite 600,Houston, Texas 77024 mvr@freese.com

In response to the drought of the 1950s, and in recognition of the need to plan for the future, the Texas Legislature created the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) in 1957 to develop water supplies and prepare plans to meet the state’s future water needs. In 1997, the legislature established a new water planning process, based on a “bottom-up,” consensus-driven approach. Coordinating this water planning process are 16 planning groups, one for each regional water planning area. To date, the 16 planning groups have completed and adopted four (4) regional water plans 2001, 2006, 2011, and the 2016 regional water plans. The 2017 State Water Plan, the most recent state water plan currently under development, will summarize the dedicated efforts of about 450 planning group members, numerous technical experts, the public, and several state agencies. This process has resulted in greater public participation, public education, and public awareness, underscoring the benefits of directly involving local and regional decision makers and the public in water planning.

Region H, one of the 16 regional planning areas, consists of all or part of 15 counties along the Texas Gulf Coast and is generally characterized with urbanized land uses and broad‐based economic development including manufacturing, petrochemical, transportation, and agriculture. Based on data from the 2000 Census, the first regional water plan reflected a regional population of approximately 4,898,948. By the 2010 Census, the population for Region H had grown to approximately 6,093,967. This significant growth in population is projected to continue for the next 50 years. Traditionally, water supplies in Region H have originated from localized and non-regional groundwater sources. This perspective has changed over time as the greater‐Houston area has coped with groundwater reduction due to the risks of land subsidence. In many areas, Region H has retroactively developed regional infrastructure for the use of surface and other water supplies in lieu of groundwater to offset the threat of land subsidence. Therefore, the water supply systems within the region face challenges due to not only the organic growth of demands over time, but also the sudden conversion from groundwater to alternative supplies.

Key words: water, planning, subsidence, supply Preference: oral presentation

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