Most Texans don’t worry about being left behind without access to clean, affordable drinking water – after all, it never fails to fill our sinks, showers and hoses. But in a growing, drought-prone state that is ground zero for climate change, making sure that we’ll always continue to have fresh water for all is a concern that we at the Texas Living Waters Project wrestle with daily.
Water scarcity would impact the lives of each and every Texan – but in particular, our changing water landscape threatens low- and moderate-income water rate payers who must subsidize wasteful water practices from higher-income residents, businesses and industrial users; rural communities whose groundwater supplies are encroached upon by rapidly growing urban centers; and the fish and wildlife, as well as the people whose livelihoods depend on them, that need plentiful fresh water flowing through our rivers and into our bays.
Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme is Water For All / Leave No One Behind. Building a future with fresh water for all is no easy task, and there is no single solution. However, we have identified seven strategies that are a strong starting place for addressing this challenge in the Lone Star State:
1. Reducing demand
Before anything else, communities must engage mightily in water conservation. Using less water is the only way to truly mitigate water scarcity.
Texas communities must bring more stakeholders to the table to plan for their water future. Whether or not a community implements a One Water management approach, we can all benefit from thinking more comprehensively about how time-tested strategies like stormwater collection can be used alongside of innovations that utilize new developments, parks and community spaces to manage water more efficiently and effectively.
3. Embracing innovation
Communities must be willing to think beyond traditional approaches to embrace and incentivize the adoption of newer, more innovative solutions. Nature-based approaches to development and land restoration have incredible benefits for communities, including preparing them to be more resilient when faced with both droughts and storms.
4. Thinking big picture
Communities must remember that when the Texas environment suffers, so do we. Water supply strategies must be implemented responsibly, in a way that allows enough fresh water to flow into rivers and all the way to Texas bays.
5. Planning for drought
Community drought management protocols typically kick in when water supplies drop to a certain level or water treatment facilities begin to reach capacity – but often, this ignores earlier signs of real drought. Instead of waiting for supplies to stretch thin, our communities should develop multi-faceted drought response plans that also consider whether the region is in a climatic drought. By doing so, communities can become more nimble and proactive in stretching water supplies in the face of drought.
No strategy is sufficient or reliable on its own; Texas communities must stay flexible and resilient by investing in a diverse mix of strategies. By implementing a host of smaller-scale strategies, communities may even be able to avoid larger, more destructive water supply projects.
7. Remaining diligent
Technology has been, and will continue to be, a boon for water conservation and supply. Still, as new technologies become available, communities must continue to fully evaluate strategies to ensure they are the right fit for them and the environment. Water utilities should invest in research and development and be willing to test and give feedback on new strategies.
These recommendations are excerpted from Best Bets for Texas Water, a guidebook to evaluating water supply and management strategies for Texas’ water future. You can take action today in support of Water For All by signing your name in support of these recommendations.