Texans like to be first in everything, especially if it concerns size, success or any other positive measurement. But the Lone Star State ranks “only” seventh in percentage increase in population for the year ending July 1, new estimates released this week by the Census Bureau show.

The bureau puts Texas’ population at just over 23.9 million on July 1, an increase of 2.1 percent from the previous year.

But take heart: Texas was No. 1 numerically, having drawn about 500,000 new residents during the 12-month period studied.

The Census Bureau estimate is reached by measuring births, deaths and migration into and out of each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Some other points from the Census report indicate that:

The fastest-growing states continue to be in the Rocky Mountain region and the Southeast, along with Texas. Louisiana appears to be rebounding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, gaining 50,000 residents. After the storm hit in August 2005, the bureau estimated that Louisiana lost 250,000 residents. A private study determined that New Orleans’ population is two-thirds what it had been before the storm hit. Nevada is the fastest growing state, increasing 2.9 percent to 2.6 million. Arizona is the second-fastest-growing state, with a population increase of 2.8 percent to 6.3 million. Only two states lost population. Michigan’s population dipped by 0.3 of a percent and Rhode Island saw a decrease of 0.4 of a percent.

Perhaps it’s coincidental, but many of the fastest-growing states are facing, or perennially face, drought and water supply problems. That’s certainly the situation now in the southeastern United States, and the water problems facing the Southwest are ongoing. We all know that Texas is forever just coming out of its most recent drought, or beginning the next one — or so it seems.

Whatever the cause, the effect is the same. More people are arriving — either by birth or by moving van — in states where natural resources are beginning to feel the strain of their presence. Texas began the process of regional water planning during this decade, and that effort is ongoing. Even though Brownwood and area communities can rest easy with the supply provided by Lake Brownwood, other areas of the state are not so fortunate. An Associated Press story published in the Bulletin Friday reported that Lake Meredith, which supplies water to 11 Panhandle cities including Amarillo and Lubbock, is reaching historic lows, and allocations to those municipalities are being cut.

Population growth says a great deal about the business climate and the attractiveness of this state. But that growth is also an urgent reminder that the development of additional water resources is crucial to Texas’ sustained progress — just as vital as a top-notch educational system and a friendly business environment.

Brownwood Bulletin