Houston is Running Out of Water...Or is it?

If you’re used to watering your lawn or hosing down your car whenever you feel like it, you may have to make some adjustments soon. That’s because, according to a recent study by 24/7 Wall St., Houston is in serious danger of running out of water.

“Houston has already developed some serious problems with its future water supply and those trends are not getting any better.”

Douglas McIntyre is the editor of 24/7 Wall St., which is an online financial analysis site. He and his colleagues examined their own data along with studies by the National Resource Defense Council, and Ceres, a research and sustainability group, to identify ten cities that will most likely face serious water shortages in the not too distant future.

“At the core of this is sort of a simple notion: How much water is available to the cities? How much do they utilize, and what is likely to happen to the water supply overtime?”

Texas is no stranger to drought, but with a rapidly growing population McIntyre’s findings suggest that Houston, San Antonio, and Fort Worth are running a very high risk of not having enough water to meet increasing demand.

“We’re in a period of growth that really puts us at a significant vulnerability to extreme and persistent drought due to those impacts.”

That’s Robert Harriss, president of the Houston Advanced Research Center. He says if the region does fall into an extended drought, tougher water restrictions could become a part of everyday life. That means the use of sprinklers and other systems not using recycled water could be limited to certain days, times, and amounts.

But despite all the talk of an imminent water crisis, Alvin Wright from the city’s Public Works and Engineering Department says Houston has plenty of water — enough to meet demands through 2060. He says the city has access to more than 438 billion gallons of water per year, but only uses about a third of it.

“So if we can give out 156 billion gallons a year, and we have over 1.2 billion gallons per day we give out. I mean the math is pretty simple on that one.”

Wright says the 24/7 Wall St’s report doesn’t calculate all of Houston’s water sources. And according to the city’s website, Houston is currently working to secure an additional 840 million gallons of water a day to meet water demands beyond this century.

“It’s not just about people being able to have a green lawn or being able to fill their swimming pool. It really is about these areas being able to attract and sustain development.”

Sharlene Leurig authored one of the studies 24/7 Wall St analyzed. And though she couldn’t comment on Houston specifically, she says the entire state of Texas is threatened by drought. She says the drastic drop in water availability could take a serious toll on economic growth throughout the state.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Wendy Siegle.
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