Lake levels are down. Do we need a plan?

Possum Kingdom Lake in 2014
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Simply put, it's a plan to ensure that we avoid the worst effects of the next drought – a lack of enough water. The Texas State Water Plan's purpose is to ensure that there will be enough water for everyone as the state's demand for water continues to grow.

Let's go back to the beginning to understand why the water planning process began. Before dams and reservoirs were built in Texas, water would fall from the sky, hit the earth, and follow the path of least resistance via rivers and streams until it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. After people experienced some seven years of intense drought that caused famine, they began building reservoirs to store the water to be used during times of drought, water that would otherwise be lost to the Gulf. Many of these reservoirs were designed to control and prevent flooding as well as store water for future use.

The drought of the 1950s is considered the "drought of record" for most areas of the state. It's the planning benchmark due to its severity and the number of years the drought lasted. The drought provided historical data to use as a guide when creating the water plan for Texas. The water planning process strives to use the best available science, population growth patterns, and historical data in the planning process. These benchmarks were modified as the drought of 2011 – 2015 exceeded benchmark conditions for some areas of the state.

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Having an adequate water supply is essential as the impact of shortages reverberates throughout the state economy, essentially affecting everything from power generation to cattle and food production.

In 1957, when rains returned and ended the drought of record, the Texas Legislature designated the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) as a state agency to provide financial and logistical assistance to local and regional water entities for long-term water projects. TWDB develops the state water plan by pulling together the regional water plans, each addressing the water needs of cities, livestock and farming, manufacturing, mining, and electric power for their area.

The 16 regional water planning groups are each charged with planning for drought conditions, evaluating future population projections, water demands, and developing water management strategies to meet the needs of their area of the state for the next 50 years.

Due, in part, to the state's continued growth, the Texas State Water Plan is revised every five years. At the end of each five-year regional water planning cycle, agency staff compiles information from the approved regional water plans and other sources to compile the Texas State Water Plan, which is presented to TWDB's Governing Board for adoption. The final adopted plan is then submitted to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Texas Legislature.

Planning Regions
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Over the years, the original purpose of Texas' reservoirs has, in many cases, been forgotten. The lakes became recreational centers rather than stores to remedy drought emergencies. As drought conditions reoccur and water storage declines, recreational opportunities also decline. But in reality, a temporary lack of sport ensures, through the planning process, that the desperation experienced in the 1950s is a thing of the past.

It's common for periods of drought to end with a flood, and when it does, we're thankful planners built dams and created reservoirs that control the flood water and save it for a not-so-rainy day.

TWDB has a detailed site that allows water users statewide to take an up-close look at the 2022 State Water Plan data and see how water needs change over time. The interactive site is available here.

To view the 2022 State Water Plan, all previous plans, and additional links, visit https://bityl.co/GWTq.