Several proposals will be discussed by the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature to bring more water to thirsty Texans, but the head of the Water Project as Texas A&M University says all have one thing in common---they will be expensive, and you will pay for it with sharply higher water bills.
"The era of cheap water in Texas is over," Ronald J. Kaiser, Professor and Chair of the Water Project, says.
Kaiser says, interestingly, the problem is not a lack of water.
"We have plenty of water," Kaiser said. He says the problem is that the water is generally not where people live. He says the way the state is designed, most of the ability to capture water in reservoirs, for example, is in east Texas, not in the Hill Country, along the I-35 corridor, or other places where the water is needed the most.
"When you get west of Interstate 45, generally more water will evaporate from reservoirs than Mother Nature puts in," he says. "The best place to build reservoirs is in east Texas east of Interstate 45."
The problem is, most of the state's population growth is not in east Texas. It is along the I-35 corridor, and that means the water from any new reservoirs which are built will have to be moved, and that means expensive pipelines.
"The big expense is the pipeline," he said. "Some of these pipelines can be a million and a quarter dollars per mile."
The lack of water in fast growing parts of Texas is rapidly becoming a liability for the state's continued economic development. Economic development officials in water-rich states like Michigan, for example, have begun showing business owners who make noises about moving to Texas photographs of the Drought of 2011, especially of water tankers supplying drinking water to Spicewood Beach, northeast of Austin, which ran out of water last fall. They are telling the business owners that is 'the normal situation' in Texas and many of them are thinking twice about creating jobs in the state.
"Ground water is becoming the new oil and gas," Kaiser said. "It is increasingly important in terms of value, in terms of economic development."
Other ways to enhance the state's water resources will also be discussed, including water storage, desalination, and enhanced conservation requirements.
But experts say any project undertaken will be paid for by water consumers, in bills which some observers say, may double in the coming decade.