You wake up. You roll (or spring) out of bed to start your day. Maybe your first step is starting the coffee. Or maybe it’s brushing your teeth or using the toilet. Regardless of what you do first, each of these morning habits has one thing in common: they all require water.
Let’s talk about Texas water.
We are lucky in Texas. Our great state has fourteen major rivers and 11,247 named streams identified by the U.S. Geological Survey. The combined length of all streams and rivers totals 80,000 miles. From the Chihuahuan Desert in far West Texas to the bluebonnet pastures of the Hill Country, Texas rivers provide beauty, life, and recreation to the people and wildlife who live across the state.
Another job that rivers have is water supply. Texas rivers feed many of our state reservoirs. In fact, 188 major reservoirs provide drinking water and recreation to millions of people every day. While surface water may be the most obvious component of our recreation and water supply story, groundwater is another key water source for our state. There are nine major aquifers and 21 minor aquifers that supply Texas with groundwater.
What’s the problem?
Even though Texas is a water-filled state, increased population numbers are adding to a strain on total water supply. Existing supplies are expected to decline by approximately 11 percent between 2020 and 2070. On the flip side, water demand is expected to increase by 17 percent in the same time frame. In 2020, Texas will be relying on surface water for half of its water supply and groundwater for the rest in order to meet state water demands. Many areas of the state are proactively implementing more efficient water conservation practices and utilizing the latest technologies like brackish desalination and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) to diversify their water portfolio.
Where does land conservation come in?
While 47 percent of the state currently suffers from some form of drought, Texas has also been experiencing serious flooding from extreme storms. In terms of managing rainfall, land conservation becomes a critical component. Good land management (with vegetative material in mind) helps prevent erosion of river banks by slowing down runoff. Tall, native grasses and trees help absorb more water before it can rush to the edge of a river bank. Too much rain is difficult to manage in any form, but good land conservation helps protect from erosion and improves water quality by acting as a natural filter for surface water and groundwater.
What can YOU do?
While there will always be variables like population growth and extreme weather to consider, we can all choose to be more informed about our water sources and how we use water every day. Think for a moment how you use water daily. Sure, there’s the usual faucet and toilet scenario, but what about the food you’re eating? Or the clothes you’re wearing? Water is part of everything we consume, whether in the production phase or in a product’s final consumption phase. It’s important to stay informed and to be intentional with your water use. I challenge you to simply think about where your water originates. If you’re not sure where your water comes from, then I challenge you to find out. Remember, we are all Texans at the end of the day, and we all have a part in ensuring there is plenty of clean water to enjoy for years to come.