News Feature | May 6, 2014

Will The Water Crisis Tank The Texas Economy?

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

texasdroughtreg

The Texas water crisis is casting a shadow over a state that has long been revered for its booming economy. 

Since the recession began, people have flocked to Texas from economically depressed parts of the country in search of better opportunities. It added 1.3 million people between 2010 and 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the U.S. Census Bureau. 

State leaders attribute much of the state's success to small government policies. Texas boasts less state spending than all but three states, the report said.  It also maintains relatively low taxes.

But now Texas policymakers face a dilemma, as the water crisis looms large and water infrastructure upgrades are sorely needed: "How to beef up public infrastructure without straying from their small-government philosophy?" the report said. 

Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter, appointed by Republican Governor Rick Perry, argues that more spending will be needed to take on the water crisis. 

"We are already straining our systems for water, power, schools and roads," he said in the report. "And they'll continue to be stressed unless we invest more heavily."

Texas has reported $26 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next two decades, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. It has reported $11.5 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.

The water crisis may ultimately reverse positive trends in Texas. "The problems aren't going away. By 2040, demographers predict that Texas will have 40 million residents, from more than 26 million today. If the water becomes scarce...that prediction probably won't come to fruition," The Week reported

Last year, Texas voters approved a proposal aimed at confronting water scarcity in the drought-ridden state. Proposition 6, an amendment to the Texas constitution, will devote $2 billion to water projects, NPR reported

Forecasts predict that the drought will worsen in Texas over the summer. At this point, "the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated all but three counties eligible for disaster assistance," the Houston Chronicle reported

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Cracked Lake," crowt59 © 2006, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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