Hotter temps don't figure into the Texas water plan

Jul 14, 2014

Credit 2014 National Climate Assessment

Texans voted overwhelmingly to fund new water infrastructure projects last November.  State water planners are preparing for a more populous Texas, but not a hotter one reported Neena Satija for The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Water Development Board “doesn’t have an official position on climate change,” says Robert Mace, deputy executive administrator of the agency.  Nor is the Board consulting with climate scientists when working on long term projections.

Scientists say Texas Republican leaders’ aversion to reducing the state's economic dependency on carbon-polluting fossil fuels — and their reluctance to acknowledge climate change — prevent the state from properly planning for the impacts of a warming planet on natural resources crucial to its growing population.

John Nielsen-Gammon is the state climatologist and a professor at Texas A&M University.  He says, “Climate change will affect water supply by 5 to 15 percent in the next 50 years.  I don’t think [the effects] are small enough to ignore.”

While Texas may not be asking scientists for input, its Republican-led, conservative neighbor is.  Oklahoma has been suing a climate changing model in its water plan for almost 10 years, says Mark Shafer, a University of Oklahoma-based climate scientist and the author of a portion of the federal government-sponsored National Climate Assessment.

Shafer notes Oklahoma’s approach was funded over a decade ago when things were different.

“A lot has changed since then,” Shafer said, and today, “I don’t know if they would get a similar authorization through."

As Texas struggles to plan a future with more people, a recent Texas A&M AgriLife Research study identified more factors contributing to the groundwater decline than agriculture and population growth.

The Panhandle region was the focus of the study.

Researchers found soil type influences water levels.  The sandier soils of the South Plains allow more infiltration and recharge than the tighter clay soil of the Panhandle.

Land cover and water use also play a role in the water table.

The entire study can be found here