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“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water”: The future of Hays County water

By Brittany Anderson

HAYS COUNTY — As Hays County continues to grow and the need for water increases, residents and various authorities are looking towards future water sources and infrastructure in order to plan for this demand. 

Companies like Texas Water Utilities (TWU) and agencies like the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) are part of this.  

TWU is an investor-owned water and wastewater utility with about 180 systems around the Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan areas. Todd Danielson is the Vice President of Engineering at TWU, whose department is responsible for working with developers and planning for future infrastructure.

Danielson said that about two-thirds of water in Hays County comes from surface water sources (such as the Highland Lakes Reservoir, Canyon Lake Reservoir and Guadalupe River,) and about a third from groundwater sources (such as the Edwards Aquifer and Trinity Aquifer.) 

TWU itself provides water to about 8,500 people in Hays County, which is still a “rather small number,” although “historically and in the near-term” the company has been able to work with regional partners to provide supply and meet demand. 

Of course, there will always be challenges in keeping up with that demand.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
TWDB notes that while the state’s population is projected to increase 73% over the next 50 years, total water demand for all sectors in Texas is projected to only increase by 9%, with municipal demand projected to increase in greater proportion than any other water use category.

TWDB’s recently published 2022 State Water Plan, which helps outline water management strategies, states that Texas’ existing water supply is not enough to meet the future demand for water during times of drought, and that the state would need 6.9 million acre-feet of additional water supplies to meet the demand for water in 2070. 

Locally, Hays County is estimated to triple in size over the next 50 years, and this population growth and influx of residential and commercial development in the area has many residents concerned that the county’s water supply will not be able to sustain them. 

Danielson, however, offers a piece of hope: along with agencies like TWDB, water authorities are keenly aware of this rate of growth and understand how long it takes for some of these long-term projects, such as reservoirs and pipelines, to culminate.

“There’s a lot of work going on to plan for Hays County,” Danielson said. “Major water authorities and river authorities have good, long plans to provide water to the area.” 

Some of TWDB’s water management strategies include reduction in water use through conservation or additional water supply from new reservoirs, groundwater wells, water reuse, seawater and groundwater desalination plants.

Aside from the water authority’s responsibilities, there will also need to be a change in how people view and use water, Danielson said, and water conservation efforts will be necessary and can start right in the community. 

“Where we see the focus coming in the next few years is probably curbing of outside water demands, primarily irrigation,” Danielson said. “What the community can do is minimize turf, plant shade trees and put in smart irrigation systems [when landscaping], and use WaterSense appliances.”  

The need for more water also inevitably prompts the conversation of increased water rates. 

“We’re used to paying $3-5 for a gallon of milk or a gallon of gas, but only a penny or two for a gallon of water,” Danielson said. “These major water supply projects, these major investments, are being done to assure that customers have the water that they need. Rates will be going up. The challenge is making sure people understand this is necessary so we can continue to thrive and have the water we need. … One of my favorite quotes from Benjamin Franklin is, ‘When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.’” 

Ultimately, staying ahead of the curve is key — so the goal is to help residents understand the value of water and why rates might increase, while still being “prosperous” and able to provide water for residents and businesses. 

Danielson said that over the next two years, TWU will spend $200 million for water supply projects to improve resilience and prepare for the future. Additionally, TWDB’s 2022 State Water Plan can be found at www.twdb.texas.gov under the Water Planning tab.

About Author

Brittany Anderson graduated from Texas State University in August 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She previously worked at KTSW 89.9, Texas State University's radio station, for nearly two years in the web content department as a writer and assistant manager. She has reported for the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch since July 2021.

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