Report by the Texas Comptroller says, “Texas must find cost-effective supplements to its reservoirs and aquifers.”
In light of both current drought conditions and a long history of cycles of drought, along with an ever-expanding population, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs released a report that examines the state’s water sources with an eye toward how the water resources can impact the economy.
The 24-page report begins by providing context, including a discussion of the global situation. Globally, there is very little fresh water compared to the total volume of water available, specifically noting, “If all of the planet’s waters were represented by a standard five-gallon water cooler bottle, the fresh water available for our use would amount to about a tenth of an ounce — less than a teaspoon.” In addition, freshwater is not evenly distributed.
This raises the question of borders and politics. While the report notes efforts to overcome the politics of moving water across political boundaries, Texas is still left with the question of the U.S. – Mexico water deficit. While the report explains the language of the 1944 Treaty that obligates Mexico to deliver water to Texas and calculates how far behind deliveries are, this situation raises larger questions:
- Will there be political recourse?
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX) have suggested funding cuts for implementation of Minute 319 if the International Boundary and Water Commission does not take action to improve Rio Grande water deliveries from Mexico
- Can Texas and Mexico work out mutually beneficial deals on the Rio Grande?
In a post on Hydrowonk Blog, Journal of Water Editor Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D. suggests that Texas could apply State Representative Lyle Larson’s (R-San Antonio) call for Texan Interstate Comity to the bi-national arena, and Texas and Mexico could use Minute 319 as a model to develop a collaborative solution that would firm up Texas’ water supply and provide Mexico with funding to improve water resource management and development.
The context is rounded out with an analysis of the state’s water supply and demands and a discussion of the complex structure of water rights ownership in Texas before moving on to a presentation of the specific impacts of water scarcity in Texas, including water shortage risks faced by communities and the drought-related losses to various sectors.
A section on “game changers” discusses the efforts and technologies that show some promise for improving the situation—including laying out some of the challenges faced by each. Game changers include conservation efforts, aquifer storage and recovery, interbasin transfers, efforts by the hydraulic fracturing industry to developing low-water or water-free technologies and desalination of brackish water. An earlier discussion of brackish water, reveals that there is a significant volume of brackish water available, but treating it is costly and oversight of its withdrawal is not clear-cut.
Finally, the report covers funding—specifically how the funds established by Proposition 6 work—and makes recommendations to the legislature, including providing conservation grants, increasing funding for innovative demonstration projects and incentivizing the development of innovative technology.
Written by Marta Weismann