Thursday, March 5, 2015

10 Policy Statements Regarding Water Resources Management in North Texas

Even after two weeks of rain and snow in North Texas, we should still all be concerned about the future of water resources in this part of Texas.  Provided below is my list of policy statements that could provide a platform for managing water resources in North Texas:
  1. Water is still the most misunderstood of the commodities.  It is grossly undervalued and inappropriately priced.  A better understanding of water economics is needed by the citizenry of North Texas.
  2. Managing water resources in North Texas is hugely complex.  It is a delicate balancing of economic, social, and environment needs and constraints.  Striking the correct balance takes the energy and commitment of numerous stakeholders.  Effective engagement among these stakeholders is critical to water resources planning in North Texas.
  3. It is not drinking water or wastewater or stormwater - it is One Water.  The ability to think in terms of systems and engage in integrative planning will be critical for North Texas. Determining how and when we are able to take advantage of collective water resources planning versus thinking in terms of water resource silos will be critical to North Texas as it marches toward a doubling of the population by 2050.
  4. Not all utilities are created equal.  Verizon is in the business of serving customers.  Water utilities in North Texas have customers, but unlike many other utilities, they have an obligation to serve all the citizens of North Texas. Serving a customer is far different than serving a citizen.  Fairness and transparency is and should be the cornerstone of water resources planning in North Texas.  
  5. Smart technology and advanced business practices will come to dominate water resources management in North Texas this century.  Smart water meters, advanced data science, and predictive analytics will provide citizens and water resource managers with better and more insightful information in real-time.  This will aid greatly in meeting aggressive conservation goals for the region.
  6. Meeting conservation goals will require further social and behavioral changes.  Technology will play an important role in meeting conservation goals, but more importantly will be a better understanding of behavioral economics and the role of markets in balancing water supply and demand issues.
  7. Climate change concerns and risks will place a premium on resiliency thinking and planning in North Texas.  Understanding the risks and consequences to our water resource systems will require a combined focus on both sustainability and resiliency planning and actions.  Resiliency is about being strong in a world where things go wrong.  A greater focus needs to be placed on managing the unexpected in terms of North Texas water resources planning.
  8. Striking a sustainable balance between green and grey infrastructure will be an important economic, social, and environmental consideration.  Green water solutions and opportunities need to be effectively integrated into local building and development practices.  The future of North Texas water resources planning is not about green solutions or just grey solutions - it is about developing the optimal combination of both green and grey solutions.
  9. A future marked by greater energy independence and lower energy costs combined with the Era of Desalination has important technological ramifications for North Texas water resources planning.  Advanced technology combined with the traditional reservoir and pipeline development projects and opportunities will be important tools in the water resources planning toolbox for North Texas.  We cannot conserve nor design our way out of this issue - what will be needed is a large toolbox with many appropriate engineering, economic, and public policy tools. 
  10. A greater focus on North Texas water resources issues needs to be placed at the K-12 education level.  Water infrastructure is the invisible asset that is consistently taken for granted.  The citizens of North Texas clearly see the visible problems and demands of our transportation systems.  The water resources infrastructure of North Texas lacks collective visibility.  Without better visibility and understanding, water resources planning for this century faces an uncertain and troubling future in North Texas.

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