There’s no denying that water shapes Texas. It defines our state’s iconic shape and sustains our thriving economy. From the settlement of our earliest communities, to the growth of our modern cities and industries, water is the lifeblood of our state. But it is also our Achilles heel.
Droughts threatening crops and livestock is a fact of life in the Lone Star State. A drive through West Texas will show you a century’s worth of ghost towns and farms that have faded away as their wells, springs, and rivers were depleted, polluted, or diverted to another use. Our history is a tale of prolonged drought, punctuated by disastrous floods.
The truth is that very little is new with the challenges of water in Texas. Texas has always been, and will always be a high-water-risk state. Like with most things in this state, the challenges have just gotten bigger, and more complex. Bigger droughts now threaten water supply for municipal use, industries, and growth. Bigger floods beg the question, are we ready?
Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation and one of the strongest economies in the world. Over the next 50 years, Texas’ population is expected to grow more than 70%. That means 50 million Texans will be putting even more demand on our water supplies.
Even now, Texas is in the midst of a historic drought. Our aquifers have never been lower, or our rivers so over-allocated. Our growing urban communities are pushing the limits of their water systems, while rural populations struggle to maintain aging and fragile infrastructure. And, behind the scenes, Texas’ water workforce that enabled the last 30 years of growth is poised to retire or is leaving in droves for easier, better-paying jobs.
Despite the challenges, Texas has persevered. After each flood and drought, changes were made, and planning and preparation for the next one improved. Because of our Texas-sized water security challenges, we are leaders in regional and statewide planning, conservation, reuse, aquifer storage and recovery, and desalination.
It is an impressive story of persistence, tenacity, and ingenuity repeated over generations. Unfortunately, the challenges of the past will look quaint in comparison to what the future holds.
The challenges of tomorrow will have to include the support of our growing population. All too often, we either take water for granted or don’t consider it at all. You turn on your tap, and it’s there. Only in times of crisis, during boil water notices, freezes, or complete outages, do we begin to place value in water and consider the fragile infrastructure that sustains it.
That’s where a campaign like Texas Runs on Water® comes in. It’s the first statewide water campaign designed to celebrate the many ways our lives as Texans are shaped by water.
In the past, campaigns to turn off the water while you brush your teeth, install low-flow toilets, and limit lawn watering were sufficient to get us through droughts. But growing demand and prolonged drought mean we need individuals to do their part, and we also need large-scale infrastructure investments.
Simply put, the state’s conservation and efficiency needs have grown beyond what the individual alone can do. Fixing leaking pipes, reducing municipal and industry demand, and reusing the water we have are now critical parts of the equation.
A look back at a century’s worth of Texas water history, with both its accomplishments and hard lessons learned, has taught us that there is not a singular solution to our water woes. It will require diverse and integrated strategies, strong government investment, a robust workforce, and water-conscious Texans to make Texas’ water future secure.
So how does a campaign play a role in shaping Texas’ water future? Making better decisions about how we manage and allocate water starts with awareness of the role it plays in our daily lives. Texas Runs on Water is an invitation to all Texans—no matter your party, preference, or politics—to take pride in the place you live and in the water that keeps it running.
From agriculture to industry, fishing to floating, cowboy boots to queso, water is at the heart of everything we love about our state.
Whether we like it or not, water will shape our state’s future. It is not a new conversation, but it is one we think all Texans should be a part of.
Join us at TexasRunsonWater.org.