State Water Planning and Drought
With the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 1997 and Senate Bill 2 in 2001, the Texas Legislature called for drought response to be an essential part of water planning in Texas. Texas’ long-range water planning process requires that the sixteen regional planning groups consider the drought contingency plans of the region’s water suppliers and also consider drought management as a potential strategy to meet water needs.
Although state law recognizes and even encourages drought management as a way to meet water demands, only a few of the 2011 regional water plans include the water saved through drought management as a water supply strategy. Water planners are directed to ensure that enough water is available to meet water needs during a drought of record. Failing to include drought management as a water supply strategy leads to overbuilding and overdeveloping water supplies.
Trying to meet all water demands during the worst drought results in overbuilding of water supplies as well as treatment and distribution infrastructure. This overbuilding comes at great expense to the rate-payer, the taxpayer, and the environment.
Ultimately, this means our long-range plans do not reflect reality. Drought management is required by state law, widely accepted by water utilities, and is commonly practiced during times of shortage. Therefore, it only makes sense to include the savings available from drought management in the state’s long-range plans.