It’s not the message many expected to hear at the end of a rain plentiful couple of seasons when the grass is green and the lake is full.
But the “take away” message Kevin Kluge, project manager for Region F of the Water Resources Planning Division, Texas Water Development Board, had for attendees at the monthly Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, was intended as a warning.
“In the future, in a drought of record,” Kluge said, “there will not be enough water for some users. There will be some unmet water needs.”
Most critical among those, he said, will be those in the area who require water for irrigated agriculture.
Kluge followed the drought of record bad news, with the second part of the TWDB’s “take away” message.
“We have people from throughout the state addressing those needs,” Kluge said.
Brown County is a northeast border county for Region F, the second largest of the 16 water regions in the state and is neighbored by the Brazos Region to the north and Lower Colorado Region to the south. The 40-county region includes Midland, Odessa and Big Spring to the west, David Meesey, TWDB water resources planning division team leader said.
Region F, like the rest of the state is facing some challenges, Meesey said, challenges the board is seeking to address or prepare for in a 50-year plan.
While the western part of the region is concerned with brackish aquifer water, that will have to go through a desalinization process to be usable, the local area’s water resources are not so compromised, Kluge said. This area’s largest need is irrigated agriculture, and, ways to regulate some of those needs.
Known challenges of the next 50 years also include that much of the region is sparsely populated in comparison to the areas that contain the mega cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. The fewer people in the larger areas may not be wealthy, or financially situated to pay rising water bill costs. Also, piping the water greater distances is a major concern, Kluge said.
The regional planning process represents a reversal of the previous method used for water planning.
“The state had done a plan since the early 1960s,” Meesey said. “About 10 years ago, legislation was passed that changed water planning. Since 1997, it’s been done the opposite way, through 16 different regions throughout the state. Now, the plans are produced locally, with a lot more local input, a lot local acceptance to the answers… It’s a very open, participatory process.”
The planning group includes representation from at least 11 different statutory groups, he added.
Kluge discussed projected ways of meeting the demand gap for water in this region during times of record drought, saying subordination of water rights — in which areas that have them work out agreements with those who don’t — is a key strategy.
“Water rights given out a long time ago have seniority over those given out more recently,” Kluge said. “They would make a deal. Conservation is a very big strategy, too.”
Kluge said population projections for the Brown County area are fairly constant, and water demand projections are the same. Regionally, populations increases are expected to be concentrated in the Midland-Odessa area.
The regional plan deals with rural water distribution and the challenges those suppliers face due to large distances and the relatively small amounts of water they handle, in addition to the inability of customers to pay significantly higher rates.
“We’re looking at regionalizing supply situations,” Kluge said.
Subordination strategies are also being examined in the Pecan Bayou watershed, because Lake Brownwood has senior water rights that would affect Lake Clyde, Lake Coleman and Hord’s Creek in a time of record drought.
“We’re looking at other possible strategies, too,” Kluge said.
On the good news side, he added, 2007 was a “great legislative session for water,” Kluge said, with water conservation and environmental issues being addressed.
The third round of regional planning is scheduled for 2011, followed by a state plan in 2012.
Brownwood Area Chamber Executive Director Laura Terhune said 81 attended the monthly luncheon Friday.