As sure as the sun rises each morning, water flows through every part of our daily life. Without water, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the business operations, supply chains, and technologies that make Texas the 9th largest economy in the world would cease to exist. It may be the beauty of our land, the friendly individualism of our people, the pro-business, pro-innovation attitude of our state, but more people are moving to Texas than are leaving the state every single week. Now home to 30 million people, our population is expected to reach 54 million by 2050. While our ingenuity as Texans is infinite, our natural resources are finite. The Lonestar migration will inevitably add pressure to our state’s land, water, wildlife and infrastructure. The actions we take now have the power to shape our state’s future.
As we celebrate World Environment Day, we’d like to take a moment to consider the future of water. What stewardship knowledge, resources, or positive behaviors can we share? How can we engage more people to join the dialogue around water conservation? We believe it starts with awareness and education. Let’s dive in!
Where’s all the water?
Underneath ¾ of our state lie 23 aquifers. Think of aquifers as large underground storage tanks made of permeable rock and sediment. These natural reservoirs absorb and store water underground when rain falls or snow melts. This water is called groundwater and when extracted, it serves as drinking water for our communities, irrigation for crops and as a natural resource for industries. In fact, over 55% of the state’s water supply comes from groundwater according to the Texas Water Development Board.
Having trouble visualizing what’s underground? This video from Environmental Defense Fund shows the interconnectedness of water and gives a tour of the water right beneath our feet.
Are there different types of water?
Surface water is water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs and other open bodies of water on Earth’s surface. Texas boasts 191,228 miles of river and streams, 10,196 reservoirs covering more than 3.5 million acres, and 6.3 million acres of wetlands. Surface water is replenished through rain or snow and plays a crucial role in the water cycle by evaporating and condensing returning to the Earth as precipitation.
Drinking water is water that is safe for drinking and cooking and provided by water utilities.
Stormwater is water from rain or snowmelt and it collects in rivers, lakes and aquifers.
Wastewater is water drained from homes and businesses that includes human waste and pollutants. This water must go through a treatment process before returning to the environment.
Recycled water is treated wastewater that has been filtered, disinfected and treated to be used again as for non-drinking purposes.
Greywater is water drained from activities like taking showers, washing dishes, laundry etc. this water does not contain human waste or harmful chemicals.
Strategies such as “One Water” have been developed to ask and guide communities to consider and manage all waters running through it holistically. These water management practices integrate drinking water, wastewater, and greywater as a single resource. Through this approach, communities can achieve long-term resiliency to benefit both the environment and the economy.
Henderson, Katie & Deines, Allison & Ozekin, Kenan & Moeller, Jeff & Fulmer, Alice & McGregor, Stefani. (2020). Talking to Customers and Communities About PFAS. Journal – American Water Works Association. 112. 24-33. 10.1002/awwa.1498.
Where’s the water going?
From stormy cloud to raindrop, to lawns to puddles to streams and down the gutter, where’s all the water going? Take that journey on the next rainy day. With River Runner, you can watch the path of a raindrop from anywhere in the contiguous U.S. – start from a city near you:
Whether you’re in Austin or El Paso, your raindrop journey will likely take you all the way across our state and ultimately lead you to our bays, estuaries, and the Gulf of Mexico. Why does this matter? As water flows through our daily lives, communities and businesses, it takes with it what we put in. Litter on our roadways, improperly disposed medications, and harmful chemicals like fertilizers can wreak havoc on diverse ecosystems and the plants and wildlife that call them home, locally and miles away.
How can I help keep water clean?
There are committed organizations all across Texas working to keep our communities and our water resources clean. Keep Texas Beautiful (KTB) and programs like 2022 Conservation Wrangler Stopping Litter and Plastics Along Shorelines (SPLASh), are working to combat litter and even track it in the Texas Litter Database.
As we head out for summer hikes and outdoor recreation, a good rule of thumb is to always practice the 7 Leave No Trace principles:
- Plan ahead
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of water properly
- Leave what you find (but not litter, pick that up!)
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate to others
By practicing and sharing these 7 simple actions, we can help protect our natural world and our precious natural resources.
Texans can help reduce litter that ends up in waterways by taking simple actions like avoiding single-use items like plastic water bottles, coffee cups and utensils, carrying reusable bags, or even simply securing trash and recycling properly at the time of disposal.
In addition, using nature-friendly products in our homes and lawns can help us reduce our ecological footprint and reduce pollutants in our water sources. Nature-friendly products are designed to be less harmful to beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. By using these products, you help protect these important organisms that play a crucial role in plant reproduction and biodiversity.
This World Environment Day, we hope you will join us in being Texan by Nature. Here’s a few ways you can get involved:
- Join one of our 140+ Conservation Partners at their events.
- Financially support a Conservation organization whose mission resonates with you.
- Advocate for and implement nature-based solutions
- Join the Texas Water Action Collaborative (TxWAC) if you have a water project that needs funding or want to fund a water projects to meet business water stewardship goals.