Within the large state of Texas and its different climate zones, there are very wet areas and very dry areas. Interbasin transfers are used to bring water from wetter areas to places where the demand for water exceeds readily available local water supplies.
As of 2014, there are more than 150 active interbasin transfer projects in Texas. The Dallas metroplex is one of several areas in Texas that receive a lot of interbasin transfers. Houston also receives significant amounts of water from interbasin transfers and is currently working on a project that would increase that amount.
In past legislative sessions, some Texas lawmakers have proposed creating a vast grid of water pipelines across Texas so that water can be delivered from areas of Texas with lots of rainfall to drier areas, especially in times of drought. This idea is likely to reemerge in future sessions.
There are various regulatory requirements that are intended to prevent people from withdrawing too much water from rivers for interbasin transfers. However, there have been attempts to weaken these regulations, and these attempts will likely continue.
All interbasin transfers require a permit or an exemption under Texas law, and the state requires that most major new transfer permit applications are carefully reviewed. This close scrutiny is meant to determine:
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is responsible for deciding whether these permit applications fulfill the above criteria. Unfortunately, the agency’s review process has sometimes fallen seriously short.
Interbasin transfers could help sustain struggling dry areas of the state. However, without careful balancing, this could be to the detriment of the basins that supply the water. High energy needs are also a long-term concern. This strategy is only viable when the basin receiving a water transfer already has strong water conservation measures and will use the new water wisely.