When it comes to water, Texas is in a bit of pickle, despite the planning efforts of the Texas Water Development Board. Although the current State Water Plan is a laudable effort, more work still needs to be done.
That’s why the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s new water sustainability strategy “WaterSMART” comes at a good time. SMART stands for “Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow. The purpose of the program is to “secure and stretch water supplies for use by existing and future generations to benefit people, the economy and the environment.”
Though WaterSMART is primarily a federal policy, there are some lessons to be learned by Texas.
First, Texas is not maximizing conservation efforts. Conservation is the closest thing to a water supply “silver bullet” there is, particularly in the municipal sector. No matter what happens in the future, using water more efficiently and guarding against waste is always good policy. Any Texas rancher will agree with me.
Perhaps the biggest lesson for Texans to learn from is the program’s attempt to integrate water and energy needs. WaterSMART specifically aims to identify and support energy projects and actions that promote sustainable water strategies. Conversely, it will also identify the water footprint of various energy technologies and make sure that it is considered as part of development.
Texas should be planning for its future with this water and energy relationship in mind. Water supply projects that move water hundreds of miles in a pipe can be very energy intensive and may not make sense. Likewise, we should not build new energy generation unless we are sure there is enough water to supply the plant locally, without negatively impacting existing users.
I think Secretary Salazar says it best: “The federal government’s existing water policies and programs simply aren’t built for 21st century pressures on water supplies. Population growth. Climate change. Rising energy demands. Environmental needs. Aging infrastructure. Risks to drinking water supplies. Those are just some of the challenges.”
We don’t use water the same way we did 50 years ago. Looking to the next 50 years, Texans must find progressive ways to ensure there is enough water. Being “SMART” is the first step.