Texas Legislators Raise Awareness About State’s Water Woes

texas-290A booming population and climate change are further jeopardizing Texas’ limited water supply, officials warn.

More than 600 Texas lawmakers and water policy experts came together in Fort Worth this week for The Water Event conference to raise awareness about the state’s water crisis. The two-day forum called attention to legislation that aims to confront the state’s depleting water resources while its population swells.

Texas’ population is slated to nearly double, from 24.3 million inhabitants to 45.5 million, over the next 50 years, according to the Associated Press.. This growth puts strain on an already limited resource and makes ensuring water access for citizens more expensive for the government.

These circumstances, coupled with climate change, could also be very detrimental to Texas’ agriculture.

Almost three years ago, a drought in south-central Texas resulted in agriculture losses of approximately $3.6 billion. If a severe drought occurred during the expected population boom, the Texas Development Board estimates that 85 percent of the population would go thirsty and businesses could also lose as much as $98 billion dollars by 2060, according to the Star Telegram. Almost 25 percent of the state is already experiencing drought conditions.

The state water plan, which could be ratified in the 2011 legislation session, includes 19 new reservoirs, pipelines, and other building plans that could total $31 billion, according to The Houston Chronicle.

“Although that sounds like a lot of money, out of a $180 billion budget, it’s a drop in the bucket,” said Sen. Kip Averitt, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and co-host of the conference. “We need to be putting these things into perspective,” Averitt said.

The plan could cost up to $140 billion if delayed, he argued.

Some environmental groups advocated the importance of conservation education and technology, as well as improvements in water efficiency techniques during the conference. One of the main goals of The Water Event was to increase public knowledge and financial support before the 2011 legislation session.

H2O4Texas is an awareness campaign that helped organize the event. The organization claims Texas’ “economy and public health will be irrevocably harmed” without a sustainable plan for clean water supplies.

In the immediate future, the Fort Worth-based Tarrant Regional Water District is attempting to acquire water through a lawsuit against Oklahoma. The trial begins in early December. For the time being, Averitt said it is “their best alternative. It’s the cheapest water and has the ability to bring more water in the midterm.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Monday that he will support the state water plan and plans to assist in finding financial backing.

Source: Associated Press

Read more about Texas’ water woes here and here.

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