Current drought in Texas now worst on record in state
Rarely does a day go by without a news report somewhere in Texas related to the drought and water scarcity in the state. From increasing water bills to calls for conservation to safety concerns regarding declining water quality, Texans are feeling the harsh consequences of water sources that are drying up. Lake levels in many areas are down not inches, but feet.
In Elkhart, some water customers are buying bottled water to drink rather than drinking the city’s water out of the tap as they feel it is not drinking water quality. Others complain about the increase in their bills from December to January – in one case even doubling.
The Trinity River Authority supplies water to Colleyville, and residents there were recently warned to be prepared to implement Stage 2 water restrictions in March. Residents will see their current restrictions, which allow watering twice a week, restricted to watering once a week.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) recently reported that despite a wet January, the Texas drought continues. Lakes Travis and Buchanan, which are the LCRA region’s water supply reservoirs, are still only 36 percent full. LCRA Vice President for Water John Hoffman says the 10-year drought of 1947-1957 is no longer the worst on record in Texas. The current drought has taken over that title. “We’re concerned about our water supplies like everyone in the lower Colorado River basin, and we’re working with our stakeholders to manage through this,” he said.
Just this week, the LCRA said water inflow reductions are going to mean even less water availability than thought. Because the projected amount of firm water available could continue to decline, agency officials are seeing the need to explore new water sources. “We find ourselves in the midst of a worse drought and so our inventory’s less,” said Hofmann. That could eventually translate to less water available to sell to cities and industry.
BlueTech Research, which focuses on the water technology industry, recently released its BlueTech Water Almanac 2015. Part of the report maps what actions are being taken in the water sector as a result of water scarcity. Drought conditions, such as those in Texas, have already driven government entities as well as consumers to water conservation. Water leaks, particularly large leaks in municipally-owned systems, are a major problem that are being corrected through leak detection and repair. For homeowners, one of the easiest ways to save water is through the switch to water-efficient appliances. Other conservation measures noted by BlueTech are demand-side management and customer use awareness tools, water metering and new water rate structures.
A trend that is growing in the United States and other countries is desalination of water. Desalination plants are springing up in growing numbers. In fact, Texas is home to the world’s largest inland desalination plant that can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily, using a previously unusable brackish groundwater supply.
Alternative water sources are also being explored, according to BlueTech’s report, including rainwater harvesting, capturing and treating storm water and seawater toilet flushing. Some innovative solutions are also being studied that avoid the use of water altogether, such as vacuum sewers and toilets, waterless cooling and waterless laundry and dyeing. Water reclamation and re-use projects are getting attention.
Texas drought conditions have been so widespread that Texans went to the polls in 2013 and approved the State Legislature’s proposal to transfer $2 billion from the state’s rainy day fund to provide funding for some of the projects in the State Water Plan. Officials of the Texas Water Development Board say that this multi-billion-dollar investment in the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) could result in $27 billion in water-related projects over the next 50 years.
Creativity, innovation and technology are fast becoming a major part of the solution of how to deal with drought, water shortages and finding new water sources.
As additional water-related projects and government contracting opportunities become available, contact the experts at SPI to stay informed.