Texas regional plan calls for $6.1 billion in projects

Within the next 50 years, North Central Texas will have the greatest need for additional water of any area in that state, according to a summary of regional water plans released Monday by the Texas Water Development Board.

Within the next 50 years, North Central Texas will have the greatest need for additional water of any area in that state, according to a summary of regional water plans released Monday by the Texas Water Development Board.

The regional plans call for spending as much as $17 billion on water projects, such as reservoirs and pipelines. More than one-third of the total — $6.1 billion — would be spent in North and East Texas where the population is expected to double by mid-century, according to an article on the report published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"It's a lot of water, a lot of needs and a lot of money," said Tommy Knowles, the water board's deputy executive administrator for planning.

The report did not pass judgment on any of the regional plans, Knowles said. The board will review the plans and then compile a statewide blueprint, which must be completed by January, he said.

The centerpiece of the North Texas plan is the proposed $1.4 billion Marvin Nichols reservoir, a 62,000-acre lake to be built in East Texas. A second smaller reservoir is planned in Fannin County. Pipelines will be needed to carry water to the Metroplex from untapped Lake Palestine, and North Texas water districts are trying to tie into water in southeastern Oklahoma.

Representatives of conservation organizations called the first round of water planning a good initial step but said more environmental concerns must be addressed and further economic analysis is needed.

"If this plan is to guide water development over the next 50 years, it needs to account for environmental needs along with human needs," said Susan Kaderka, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Gulf states office.

Many of the plans fall short in analyzing the effect of water development on fish and wildlife habitats, she said. The Marvin Nichols reservoir project has been criticized for potentially destroying 30,000 acres of hardwood bottomland forest, 15,000 acres of mixed post oak forest and habitat used by 22 endangered and threatened species.

Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said not enough attention has been paid to water conservation measures.

The total projected demand for water in Texas is expected to increase by 18 percent, to 20 million acre feet, in the coming 50 years, but that water will be used differently than it is today.

Municipal water use is expected to jump from 25 percent of the total to 35 percent while irrigation is expected to decrease from 57 percent to 43 percent. Manufacturing will use about 13 percent, and power generation about 6 percent of the water — a 2 percent jump. Livestock usage at about 2 percent, and mining at 1 percent are projected to remain constant, according to the report.

More in Drinking Water