Since September 2021, Texas is facing the worst drought and water shortages crisis since 2011 (the driest year recorded). This drought primarily affects Texas agriculture and rural communities. Many ranchers are being forced to sell their cattle because they cannot afford to feed them in the lack of water caused by these extreme drought conditions. In the western part of the state, farmers fear losing their crops because there is no moisture in the ground to sustain them. In 2011, these same issues cost nearly $7.62 billion in crop and livestock losses.
In 2022, there were 3000 water boil notices issued in Texas. That is an average of over 8 notices every single day. Unfortunately, the potential for 2023 to see fewer boil notices is looking bleak. Aging infrastructure, limited funding, and historic droughts have left water resources in rural communities unreliable and weak. In 2022, water storage in reservoirs fell by over 23% from their 2021 levels. Decreasing supply will continue to be an issue for Texans, as environmental scientists have projected that water demand will far outweigh supply by 2070.
The economic impact of this water crisis is predicted to be in the billions. Because the drought was so prolonged, many rural communities continue to face water shortages, and multiple public water pipes declared country emergencies after nearly running out of water over the summer. Experts are warning that this water supply crisis is reaching a breaking point.
Reliable water infrastructure will be one of the central priorities of the Texas legislature this year. So far, multiple bills have been pre-filed to tackle the aging water infrastructure and other water supply issues in the upcoming legislative session. Some of the proposed solutions include: creation and implementation of a critical infrastructure resiliency fund (see HB 973), mandatory TCEQ reports on climate change in the state (see HB 57), updating groundwater conservation regulations (see SB 156), and the creation of a statewide boil water notice alert system (see SB 40).
Increasing surface water is the central piece of the Texas Water Development Board’s plan to secure water supply for the future. The problem is that surface water mainly comes from rivers and reservoirs, which already accounts for half of the state’s water supply and is becoming a less reliable source every year. TREAD is advocating for an increase in science-based infrastructure to prevent the loss of more surface water resources.
TCEQ revision on surface water quality standards in relation to coastal salinity (Mitchell Water Leg. Priorities)
The establishment of a conservation fund for land and water conservation (Mitchell Water Leg. Priorities)
Appropriations Process Change with the Water Development Board supporting more funding for the Groundwater Availability Models program, research and planning fund for groundwater conservation districts (Mitchell Water Leg. Priorities)
it is possible that this will be included in SB469
Requiring the TCEQ to hold public hearings for all new wastewater permits (Mitchell Water Leg. Priorities)
The Senate Water, Agriculture, & Rural Affairs Committee’s efforts to re-evaluate the state’s water infrastructure. Including:
(1) recommendations to complete specific projects identified in the 2022 State Water Plan. In light of recent changes to the global economy, consider the current regulatory process regarding innovative technology solutions to water supply needs, such as marine desalination, and make recommendations for their improvement.
And (2) re-evaluating the status and effectiveness of the State’s groundwater management process, including data used to support regional water planning and conservation goals.