Texans need to start conserving water long-term, according to the 2011 Drought Report recently released by the state comptroller’s office.
According to the report, Texas suffered about $5.2 billion in direct agricultural losses from 2011, which was the worst single-year drought in Texas history. That number could go as high as $9 billion, and without water to make electricity, the Combs report warns of energy shortage and higher prices in electrical power.
"You as the individual consumer have some ability to reduce your water growth," Combs said. "If you don't have enough water, it affects people's ability to turn on their lights in their offices, turn on their machines, to do whatever it is they need. So it is a huge financial issue for the state."
Even after recent rains, two-thirds of the state remains in severe drought conditions.
As of November of last year, nearly 1,000 of 4,700 public water systems imposed voluntary or mandatory water restrictions. In Central Texas, a lack of rain and commercial water use has placed Spicewood Beach in Stage 4 mandatory water restrictions. The Lower Colorado River Authority even asked residents to save baths for “special occasions” only.
Combs stresses the need for new ideas to save a vital, precious resource.
"We have to maybe think about how we recapture water, how we use it. Should it be reused for lawns,” she said. “A lot of interesting things people need to be thinking about certainly."
With a growing state and a Texas-size thirst for water, $116 billion could be lost by 2060. With a special session off the table, Combs believes there's still time to get a game plan ready when lawmakers return in 2013.
"Folks are really trying to gather an awful lot of data about energy types, energy sources and water and you don't want to rush into something like that, as vital as this," she said.
The report also examined cities in arid regions that have adopted aggressive water conservation measures.
By 2060, Texans’ need for water will be up by 22 percent, and the state will need at least 18 million acre-feet annually to take care of growing water needs.
Click here to read the report.