Economic studies estimate the population of Texas to increase at an average of 1.7 percent annually. The growth supports the demand for retail trade, services, and government output (Rylander, 2002). However, increased water use is a result of the growth as well. West Texas’ primary sources of water are aquifers, such as the Ogallala Aquifer (Wheeler, 2008). They are key components for the economic development, growth, and survival of the agriculture, ranching, energy, and industrial as well as municipalities (Geurrero & Amosson, 2013). Lack of water regulation and conservation initiatives over the years combined with population growth, a longer life span, and drought has caused the depletion of aquifers to an alarming point (Somma, 1997). New regulations are vital for the allocation of water to support the various industries.
However, they must involve new methods of water conservation to enable the aquifers to replenish naturally from the absorption of runoff and surface water (Wheeler, 2008). Economic studies are being used as one tool to help with new regulations and conservation methods. Research on dry land cropping in conjuncture with expected seasonal rainfall preserves the soil, which, in turn, conserves water without major agriculture consequences (Musunuru, 2003). Studies that estimate the economic value of the limited use of the aquifer and in its effects dollar wise to the food production industries for the whole region (Guerrero & Amosson, 2013). Understanding the impact and value of water marketing and water irrigation will assist in finding new conservation methods through biology research (Yoskowitz, 1997). In addition, new waste water recycling strategies will assist in its conservation for reuse in the future (Galbraith, 2012).
The results of these studies will lead to a better understanding of the true value of water and its impact, which will lead to efficient methods of use and conservation regarding its allocation now and in the future. This paper will look at the issues of water regulation, water conservation, industry growth, global warming, and future obligations from the disciplines of economics and biology to better understand the current challenges and seek a new perspective on these concerns. Literature Review
The article Industrial Evolution was published in the July 2012
issue of Texas Monthly (Galbraith, 2012). It is a quantitative, political, and historical report detailing the various types of conservation methods currently in place, and the ones that are in the process of being implemented throughout the South Plains now and for the future. For example, El Paso had to create and implement major changes after the Rio Grande ran dry. It implemented conservation methods for companies and residents such as water restrictions, xeriscaping in place of yards, desalination plants, sewage recycling, and effluent processes. The results showed that per capita daily water usage reduced by 30% over 20 years (Galbraith, 2012). It also detailed how the ongoing drought has affected farmers, ranchers, municipalities, and others.
It suggests that we will see an average increase in temperature of up to 5 degrees by mid-century. Water evaporates faster in higher temperatures causing low reservoir levels, due to the water not being able to seep down through the ground to replenish the aquifers. The increase in temperature accompanied by a predicted increase in the Texas population by 2060 creates a formula for major water shortages (Galbraith, 2011). The article Drawing Straws was also published in the July issue of Texas Monthly (Blakeslee, 2012). The piece points out the lack of a central plan for water supply across the state due to the unstable and inconsistent structure of Texas water policy. Keep in mind that the South Plains will require different strategy concepts and funding needs compared to other demographics of the state. For example, Lubbock water needs are different than Houston, which are different than rice farmers in El Campo.
The article details the slow, lack of cooperation from Austin lawmakers and the Water Development Board that negatively affects water policy. Guerrero & Amosson’s (2013) quantitative study states that the lack of direction from Austin is a major concern since 90% of water usage is from agriculture, but it also serves as one of the main economic drivers in the region. This has led to many areas like West Texas to create local districts to assume authority over groundwater policy (Soma, 1997). The key is to find a balance on how to allocate water to municipal, industrial, and agriculture uses. Other quantitative research studies show the possible benefits of treating water as an economic commodity. Zaag (2006) states water is a special commodity with no substitute, so its allocation is a societal question and that the market should not determine the price of it.
The rising cost of water and growing scarcity leads to the understanding that it has to be allocated and used more efficiently (Grimble, 1999). These concepts are based on the idea that individuals, such as farmers, will respond rationally to financial disincentives and incentives. Water will be wasted if the price is below its real cost, and it will be allocated rationally if the price reflects its real cost due to an economic incentive (Grimble, 1999). The south plains are trying to preserve their economic future by implementing various water conservation methods currently, and devising ones for the future to keep pace with an increased population and unstable weather patterns. They also see the benefit of being able to regulate their own water ground water policies through local districts instead of the state. Again, the key is being able to find a balance of allocating water to the various users.
The article Sustaining Healthy Freshwater Ecosystems is a quantitative research, specimen collection and analysis study that shows how freshwater ecosystems provide economically valuable commodities to humans as well as habitat for plants and animals (Baron, Poff, Angermeier, Dahm, Gleick, Hairston, Jackson, Johnston, Richter, Steinman, 2003). It details the various services supplied such as flood control, transportation, recreation, purification of human and industrial wastes, plant and animal habitat, food production, and marketable goods.
These natural ecosystems sustain and fulfill human life, and are very difficult to replace when aquatic ecosystems are degraded. The importance and preservation of these ecosystems should be a top priority when discussing the allocation of water resources. New water management policies need to understand the dynamic nature of freshwater resources and their overall benefits now and in the future. In her quantitative research based article, Maria O’brian stated it is imperative to obtain balance when allocating water to protect endangered species, serve traditional uses, and provide for an ever increasing urban populace (O’brian, 1999).
The ever increasing conflict that is in need of balance and stability is between the agriculture and urban water users and the water use by the wildlife and natural plants. The concern is to go too far in one direction when trying to find the balance, instead of finding the optimal balance where the sharing of shortages among all users is system wide. Almost any form of human activity requires fresh water. 8% of the 1.3 million species live in freshwater, which cover 0.8% of the Earth’s surface and makes up 0.01% of the world’s water (Booker, Michelsen, & Ward, (2005).
Due to this complex balance, conflict resolution and effective conservation actions require a close collaboration between the different users of fresh water. It is crucial that we maintain freshwater ecosystems due to their impact on the economy through the valuable commodities they provide to people as well as the habitat for plants and animals. Finding a balance of allocating water between the agriculture and urban water users and the water use by the wildlife and natural plants is crucial.