New Analysis Shows the State Could Unlock Major Water Supplies by Addressing Aging Water Infrastructure
After more than a year of research, analysis, and dialogue, we are thrilled to release today our major new study exploring water loss mitigation as a supply strategy for Texas.
Texas water systems are losing at least 572,000 acre-feet of water per year — more than the 2020 annual water demand of Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Laredo, and Lubbock combined. Fixing leaks and replacing aging infrastructure could cut those losses in half and deliver more than four times the volume of water that new reservoirs have provided since 2010.
“The numbers suggest water loss in Texas is as much an opportunity as it is a problem,” said Jennifer Walker, lead author of the report and deputy director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water program. “Texas is both growing and drying, so it’s increasingly critical to ensure as much water as possible is reaching its intended destination. The Texas Legislature needs to equip the Texas Water Development Board and water utilities with the funding, staff, and expertise to keep the water we already have in our pipes.”
“We are not talking about eliminating all water loss,” said Alan Wyatt, a co-author of the report and an internationally-recognized water loss specialist. “It’s about getting more utilities to a performance level that a number of their peers in Texas have already achieved. Lawmakers need to prioritize water loss mitigation as a cost-effective supply strategy. Our analysis should help kickstart an increased focus on the best approach to plan for and invest in Texas’ water infrastructure.”
The study, the first of its kind for Texas, makes use of a “Frontier Analysis” approach that accounts for the many factors influencing an individual utilities’ water loss rate. The analysis’ results are particularly compelling in certain sectors. In very large utilities that serve more than 100,000 people, water loss mitigation could provide more than double the municipal needs identified in the 2022 State Water Plan for the 2020 decade — an especially critical contribution given this sector serves over 50% of the Texas population.
Analysis also indicates the cost of many water loss mitigation approaches compares favorably to various supply-side water management strategies such as seawater desalination and major new reservoirs. In addition, there are many federal, state, local, and private funding sources available for projects that mitigate water loss. The report outlines existing and emerging funding options for Texas utilities.