Texas welcomed an astonishing 300,000 new residents in 2021. By 2070, our state’s population will increase by more than four million each decade to more than 50 million. Many firms are now based in Texas, so it’s not only people moving there.
Many problems are brought on by this enormous increase, including an impending water crisis. Texas may suffer due to the rise in water demand and the resulting decline in water supplies. If nothing is done, a repeat of the record drought will leave 26% of Texans with less than half the water they require by 2070. Even this may be an underestimate because, as recent droughts have demonstrated, droughts are possibly even worse than the drought of record.
Smart Water Strategies Are Crucial
Most Texans don’t consider the availability of water because we are used to having access to clean, plentiful water every time we open the faucet. Yet, the future of our cities, environment, agriculture, and industries will be in peril if we do not consider resilient water measures.
Conservation, new reservoirs, new water wells, reuse, and storing water in aquifers are some of the current solutions to protect and expand our state’s water sources, but these are insufficient. Several of these options depend on aquifers that we are depleting or are vulnerable to Texas’ escalating droughts.
Seawater desalination is a different option that is virtually limitless and drought-proof. Desalination takes out dissolved salts and minerals to produce water that can be used for agriculture, industry, and drinking. One desalination plant can have up to 25 million gallons of dependable, clean water daily. There are already 49 desalination facilities spread out around the state, but none remove the salt from saltwater. The following step is to add seawater as a significant element to our state’s water portfolio.
Seawater desalination uses a lot of energy, impacts the environment, and is expensive, but these issues can be readily resolved. Desalinated water can be produced using clean energy and then kept in tanks or aquifers with the power embedded in it. The brines produced by the process have been safely disposed of by desalination plants worldwide, and some of them even use the brines to extract minerals.
Moreover, drought-resistant supplies help protect freshwater reserves in our rivers and estuaries. Seawater desalination is costly, but what is more expensive than desalinated water? Zero water. The cost of additional water is frequently significantly higher as the cheap water is depleted, making seawater desalination considerably more cost-effective.
The rapidly changing desalination technologies and trends are being studied and improved at numerous universities throughout the state. Researchers from Penn State University and UT Austin found a way to desalinate water more cheaply by 2020 by cleaning more water with much less energy. Thanks to this local research, we are nearing the ideal time to invest in seawater desalination.
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Innovation and cutting-edge solutions, including seawater desalination, will be crucial to ensuring Texas’s economic growth and securing its water supply in the future, as with many of the state’s pressing problems. With desalination, there will be plenty of water to drink (with our sincere apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
Mace is the executive director and Chief Water Policy Officer at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and a Professor of Practice in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Texas State University.
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