• July 31, 2014

Comptroller’s report: State needs new water technology

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 4:30 am

Despite boasting two large reservoirs, Bell County is among the areas vulnerable to water shortage in the state, according to a report released Tuesday by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

The 24-page study analyzed the effects of water shortages — including the historic 2011 drought — and made suggestions for boosting supplies to meet the needs of the state’s growing population.

The local area has “medium” vulnerability to crises caused by limited water, according to Combs’ report using data from University of Florida researchers based on fresh water available in liters per person, per day.

The Killeen area was ranked 176th most vulnerable of 225 urban areas. San Antonio is most susceptible, according to the Florida study.

“Texas has been prone to cycles of drought for centuries, and there is no reason to expect that basic pattern to change,” Combs said. “(The state’s) booming population and economy are creating an increasingly unquenchable demand for water.”

Texas is poised to add another 5 million residents, while Bell County expects to gain another 100,000 people — for about 425,000 residents — by 2020, Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter said during a visit to Temple last year.

In 2011, the state suffered the worst one-year drought since 1895, costing agricultural producers nearly $7.6 billion, according to Combs’ report.

As of late October, about 4 percent of the state remained in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor by three federal agencies.

Most of Bell County is classified as “abnormally dry,” the lowest level of the drought index.

On Tuesday, Belton Lake was 76.3 percent full, while Stillhouse Hollow Lake was 74.7 percent full, based on conservation storage and capacity, according to Water Data for Texas figures used by Combs. One year ago, Stillhouse was 85 percent full, and Belton was 83 percent full, according to Water Data.

Judi Pierce, spokeswoman for the Brazos River Authority — which oversees local reservoirs’ water rights — said staff had not had a chance to review the comptroller’s study released Tuesday.

Combs’ report also discusses plans for $2 billion in new water projects approved by voters in a constitutional amendment election Nov. 5.

The state needs a “revolution in water technology,” she said, adding that the Legislature should fund an awards program to reward developers of cost-effective sources for drinking water and provide grants to water authorities and districts that increase water efficiency through conservation projects.

“We need a breakthrough in this field and some of our state funding should be used for innovative technologies which increase conservation,” Combs said.

“Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution” is available online at www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/water.

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