The population of Texas will continue to increase dramatically over the next 30 to 40 years.

The Texas water supply will not. In fact, estimates indicate that in the future Texas will not have adequate water to meet its needs during a drought.

Carmon McCain, supervisor, information and education group for the High Plains Underground Water District Number 1, told  farmers and ag industry representatives at the recent Wheat and Water Issues Field Day at the Bushland USDA-ARS/Texas AgriLife Research Station that the population of Texas is expected to increase from 25.4 million in 2010 to 46.3 million by 2060. And water supplies are expected to decline by 10 percent over that same time.

 “The water imbalance is projected to increase by 22 percent, from 18 million acre-feet in 2010 to 22 million acre-feet in 2060,” McCain said.

Groundwater supplies are expected to decline by 30 percent, from 8 million acre-feet in 2010 to 5.7 million acre-feet in 2060. Those reductions will come from depletions in the Ogallala Aquifer and reduced supplies from the Gulf Coast Aquifer (due to pumping restrictions).

That means agriculture, which accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water consumption, will be called on to find more ways to conserve. Municipal use accounts for 15 percent and livestock and manufacturing takes 5 percent. And the High Plains, especially the area around Lubbock, has the highest water demand in the state.

The Texas legislature, through House bill 1763, addressed the issue and requires groundwater conservation districts in groundwater management areas to set a desired future condition for the aquifer. That was required by all GMAs in the state by Sept. 1, 2010. All those deadlines were met, McCain said.

The HPWD set a 50/50 management goal, meaning that in 2060 the district would have 50 percent as much water available as it did in 2010 (50 years earlier). To achieve that goal, the HPWD board enacted a new district management plan last summer that has stirred controversy, not so much because farmers object to conservation measures as to the expense they will have to endure to meter and monitor water use.

The plan sets an allowable production rate, metering and reporting requirements and registration of water wells.

Allowable production rate begins with 1.75 acre-feet per contiguous acre per year. That amounts to 21 inches. That APR covers 2012 and 2013. For 2014 and 2015, the APR drops to 1.5 acre-feet per contiguous acre per year, or 18 inches. For 2016 and beyond, the rate drops to 1.25 acre-feet per contiguous acre, or 15 inches.

McCain said 2012 and 2013 are “learning years. No penalties will be assessed for exceeding APR.”