By Kevin Wagner, TWRI Associate Director
Texas is no stranger to droughts. Throughout its history, drought has frequented the state, shaping its people and its landscapes. Today is no exception. Despite the recent rains, half of Texas remains in some degree of drought, with more than a thousand public water systems affected. Our growing population is learning how precious this resource is and seeing the importance of conserving it.
However, conservation is not enough to meet our future water demands. Improved water treatment methods are necessary to allow greater reuse of previously unusable waters. Both farmers and homeowners need better and more user-friendly tools and technologies to more effectively schedule and apply irrigation water. Texas needs both better science and new policies to ensure the future quantity and quality of its water resources.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research has a significant role to play in helping the state meet these challenges. Texas cannot adapt to a larger population, greater food and energy needs, increased pressures on water supplies, and greater uncertainty in climate without the expertise that AgriLife Research and TWRI provide. We need forward-looking, multi-disciplinary research teams to develop the innovative adaptive strategies essential to addressing the complex water challenges facing not only Texas, but also the world.
As the state’s designated water resources institute, the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) was created for this purpose. The institute is charged with working with AgriLife Research, as well as with Texas A&M University and other universities and organizations, to research holistic and effective approaches to these critical issues.
TWRI’s work, in partnership with AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has spanned the entire state. An area in the state with critical water needs is the Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the fastest growing regions of the state. The institute, AgriLife Research, and AgriLife Extension have worked in the valley for years. Through the Congressionally funded Rio Grande Basin Initiative, the group implemented strategies for more than a decade that successfully expanded the efficient use of available water and created new water supplies. TWRI, AgriLife Research, and AgriLife Extension have also worked with local stakeholders to develop and implement a watershed protection plan for the Arroyo Colorado watershed, an important waterway in the valley. TWRI is now leading a $3 million, five-year initiative to address water quantity and water quality concerns in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
In the valley and across the state, TWRI and AgriLife Research provide sound science and effective solutions for our critical water needs. We are committed to continuing these efforts to ensure adequate and clean water for future Texans.