Background for Teachers
Every Drop Counts - Wildlife Needs Water, Too!
TPW Magazine, July 2009
Water and Wildlife in Texas
Texas is growing - and so are our demands for more water. But where does that leave wildlife? Wildlife needs water every day, just like us. Unfortunately, they can't ask for more water; and they can't cut back their need for water to survive.
Our demand for water has grown steadily throughout our history. People need water to drink, for agriculture and industry. Our household use, watering lawns, leaky municipal water pipes all add to that demand.
- According to the USGS, Americans use 100 gallons or more per day. Texas is the second largest user of water in the United States.
- Watering the lawn in summer can consume 60% of your household water use.
Our individual water use is multiplied by the increase in our population. Texas' population nearly tripled from 1950 to 2000, from about 8 million to almost 21 million, and is expected to double again by 2060. Texas remains one of the fastest growing states.
- Population in Texas is expected to more than double between the years 2000 and 2060, growing from about 21 million to about 46 million.
- The demand for water in Texas is expected to increase by 27 percent, from almost 17 million acre-feet of water in 2000 to nearly 22 million acre-feet in 2060.
- Existing water supplies-the amount of water that can be produced with current permits, current contracts, and existing infrastructure during drought-are projected to decrease about 18 percent, from about 17.9 million acre-feet in 2010 to about 14.6 million acre-feet in 2060. This decrease is primarily due to the accumulation of sediments in reservoirs and the depletion of aquifers.
- Texas is going to need an additional 8.8 million acre-feet of water by 2060 if new water supplies are not developed.
- If Texas does not implement the state water plan, about 85 percent of the state's projected population will not have enough water by 2060 in drought conditions. (Water for Texas, 2007. Texas Water Development Board.)
The source of our water, our rivers, our streams, our springs and the aquifers that feed those springs is also the source of water for our wildlife. Wildlife needs water for survival and can't alter that need. People, however, can conserve water use.
Our primary uses for water are for irrigation, municipalities and industry. Conservation measures can reduce our demand. Improved irrigation methods and agricultural practices has already reduced some of that demand. Conservation measures and fixing leaking municipal water lines has helped. Committed conservation practices by individuals will also be needed.
Water supply needs by water use category for 2010-2060
Irrigation: commercial field crop production
Livestock: cattle ranches, feedlots, poultry farms, and other commercial animal operations
Mining: key mining sectors in the state, such as coal, oil and gas, and aggregate producers
Steam-electric: coal-fired and nuclear power generation plants
Manufacturing: industrial firms, such as food processors, paper mills, electronics manufacturers, aircraft assemblers, and petrochemical refineries
Municipal: residential, commercial (nonindustrial businesses, such as restaurants and office buildings), and institutional water users (schools and government facilities)
Source: Water for Texas, 2007. Texas Water Development Board
Will we have enough water in the future? Experts believe we'll have enough water for people to drink, but not to water our lawns, or to allow sufficient water flowing in our streams.
Consider these water facts:
- Nearly one-fourth of the major springs in Texas have dried up
- Texas has lost over half of its wetlands.
- Almost half of our fish species are at risk, extirpated or extinct.
Why is there a problem?
Two factors affect our water: quantity of water that is available for use, and the quality of that available water.
- 97% of earth's water is saltwater
- 3% is freshwater
- 2.14% of that freshwater is frozen in glaciers
- Less than 1% of the world's freshwater is available be used by the world
population (available as groundwater, surface water & atmospheric moisture)
- On average in Texas, only 10% of a rainfall makes it into a river or stream. Only 1% makes it to an aquifer.
- Urban runoff and discharges pollute half of Texas's reservoirs, rivers and streams.
Protecting the quantity and quality of available water is critical for Texas. The good new is that through committed conservation efforts and planning, Texas water can provide for people and wildlife.
How Individuals Can Help
- Learn where your drinking water comes from and tell others. It's the first step in conservation.
- Conserve water at home.
- Conserve water with water-wise landscaping.
- Get involved in water planning and decision-making for your community.
- Consider community action such as storm drain stenciling.
- Help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive plants and animals.
Learn more ways to help at Texas The State of Water.