In a March news release, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced the appointments to “four water-related committees signaling the issue’s continued importance to the House’s work.”

This news release foreshadows the beginning of a difficult undertaking.

Perhaps the borrowing of a phrase attributed to one who frequently undertook difficult tasks is in order: “Watson, the game is afoot.”

That which the formation of this committee has set afoot is the difficult task of planning. This planning is for meeting the water needs in Texas; to meet demand if the state’s population increases, as predicted, by 82 percent.

The Legislature created the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas Advisory Committee to oversee the Texas Water Development Board’s implementation of House Bill 4.

The committee’s charge is to “work to ensure that efforts to improve the state’s water supply are properly and effectively implemented and also help the full House prepare to address water matters in the next legislative session, which begins in January 2015.”

Also, with the voter approval of Proposition 6, there is the loan fund made available from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be watched over.

The amount available from the Rainy Day Fund is $2 billion. The estimated total capital cost to fund the 2012 State Water Plan is more than $50 billion.

The SWIFT committee, given this funding disparity, seems faced with the “Mission Impossible.”

There are those, however, who have a different opinion about cost.

This argument is put forth by a group from The Texas Center for Policy Studies in the report “Learning from Drought: Next Generation Water Planning for Texas.”

The Texas Center for Policy Studies, an Austin-based nonprofit environmental research think tank, stated that different opinion in a news release May 9.

“Texas tends to overestimate future water demand and underestimate the potential for making better use of existing supplies — increased conservation and unconventional water sources.”

The estimate from the center’s study is “rather than an 8.3 million acre-feet per year gap between demand and supply in 2060, a more realistic gap is about 3.3 million acre-feet per year.”

Members of the group list “four items that would reduce the projected 2060 demand-supply gap.”

The rationale for arriving at their conclusions is discussed in detail in their report and blog postings at texas

Under a summary piece in the report there are listed five recommendations under a heading of “Broader Policy Improvement.”

Of these, the last is “increasing public awareness and understanding of Texas water challenges and the benefits of and opportunities for conservation.”

This one underpins the others — is yet to be done — and most of our citizens don’t realize we have a water “problem.”

But now, “You have stopped preaching and gone to meddling!”

Are you talking about watering my lawn, washing my car, filling my swimming pool?

My fellow Texans, we have some hard choices to make about our water in the very near future.

This series of columns is about water and how the stage has been set for the future management of water resources in Texas. Tom Linton is a lecturer in marine sciences and a frequent contributor to The Daily News.

(1) comment

Susan Fennewald

At least in this area, water is an issue where there are conflicting thoughts and incentives. There needs to be more of alignment between money and desired outcome. For example, the city of Galveston does not benefit from conservation by its residents. In fact, income from the sale of water needs to remain fairly steady. So if there's enforced conservation due to drought - the city loses money. (this applies to many, if not most, cities). So, it may overall be good to conserve water - but the city loses money.

For the homeowner, if you put your lawn watering on a separate meter - so that you don't have to pay sewer costs as well as water costs - then the cost of watering your lawn (which is a total waste of water) is cheaper per gallon than the necessary use of water to flush your toilet.

Financial arrangements could be made to bring the finances in line with the overall desire of conservation. The state could pay cities money to decrease their water usage, and the city could charge more for high end usage and watering lawns (especially if a drought is declared).

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