If Texas maintains its current rate of water use into 2060 without finding a way either to conserve significant amounts of water or to develop new sources, the state will experience a gap between demand and availability.

It will need another 9 million acre-feet to supply a population expected to be nearly double today’s, says Comer Tuck, who works with water conservation efforts for the Texas Water Development Board.

Tuck, along with panelists Greg Ellis, GM Ellis Lawfirm PC, Houston, and Tom McLemore, project manager, Harlingen Irrigation District, discussed challenges of providing adequate water to a growing population during the recent Texas Produce Conference at San Antonio.

Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon offered a less than optimistic weather outlook. (See related story here.)

Conservation, Tuck says, will be a crucial part of the state’s water strategy, and agriculture will make a significant contribution. Municipal conservation will account for 7 percent of a water savings plan; re-use will account for 10 percent; and conservation in irrigation will account for 17 percent of conservation efforts.

New water sources will also be part of the plan, with new reservoirs to account for 17 percent of additional water. Other surface water, including renewed contracts that expire within the 50-year water contract period, accounts for 34 percent of additional water sources.

The State Water Plan, Tuck says, calls for 1.25 million acre-feet in increased conservation by 2020 and 1.5 million acre-feet of conservation by 2060. Some funds are available to help meet those conservation goals. “We have limited funds available through the Texas Water Development Board at low interest rates,” he says.

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Also, a bond-based program is available, but little used because of bond market rates.

Recent action by the Texas state legislature provides $2 billion in funds to help implement the state water development plan.

Ellis discussed the recent legislative action that “dedicated money to water development.”