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CASE Luncheon at LCRA, March 28, 2014
Guest Speaker Dr. Robert E. Mace

Dr. Mace is a Deputy Executive Administrator at the Texas Water Development Board. A returning guest and dynamic speaker, he manages the Water Science and Conservation program area for the agency and has over 20 years experience working with water in the state of Texas.

Summary: Dr. Mace provided a brief description of the areas in which the Texas Water Development Board focuses: data, financing, and planning, and then presented up-to-date information regarding the statewide drought. As of late March 2014, 67% of the state of Texas is in a drought with West Texas, especially Wichita Falls, fairing the worst.

Statewide reservoir storage is currently 64% full and Lake Travis is currently 36% full. The Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico, which supplies much of El Paso, is down. New major reservoirs have been recommended but it is likely that very few will be built in Texas. Accordingly, the LCRA is looking more closely at off-channel reservoirs. With regard to aquifers, many are looking east to the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in between Austin and San Antonio. And, Hayes County is looking at water from Lost Pines.

Dr. Mace described the "Drought Shadow" that has occurred since 2011, the second-worst statewide drought since the drought of the 1950's. As citizens became aware of the state's dire water situation, they began adjusting water consumption, and now on the other side of the extreme drought, are still in the habit of conserving. Texas' residential water use may be broken down as follows: 69% of water usage can be contributed to indoor use (toilets, washing machines, etc.) with just 31% being utilized outdoors. These numbers vary across the state, with less water being used outdoors in Houston than in other areas like Midland/Odessa. Astoundingly, average household water usage in Texas is still 95 gallons of water per person/per day.

The next portion of the presentation focused on ways in which various entities are reutilizing water. One example was that of the Austonian, located in downtown Austin. The condos, along with the LCRA, use A/C condensation for many of their water needs, ie – in toilets. Also, The Riverwalk in San Antonio is currently being filled with treated wastewater. Dr. Mace described multiple reclamation and direct potable (or "direct blending") reuse projects across the state. He noted that he would be in favor of seeing a reuse project slated for Central Texas but to-date; this has not been planned. He discussed desalination (desal) and seawater desal. Again, not in Austin’s current water plan. One of the noted drawbacks to seawater desal was expense.

In November 2013, voters approved siphoning off $2 billion from the State's Rainy Day Fund for water investments to better help Texas during future droughts. One of two funds approved is called SWIFT - State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. The funding will become available in early 2015 and the Texas Water Development Board's goal will be to turn that $2 billion into $30 billion in financing. Learn more about SWIFT and the stakeholder process.

Learn more about designing water rate structures for conservation and revenue stability.

View Dr. Mace's presentation slides.

Dr. Robert Mace can be reached directly at robert.mace@twdb.texas.gov.


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