Water usage in area could double in 50 years

January 28, 2011 4:28:25 PM PST
In coming decades, the greater Houston region will have more people and not enough water for everyone. That's just some of the surprising statistics coming from a report released Friday on Houston's future.

The greater Houston area is expected to double in population in the next 50 years and demands on water are expected to surge.

"Every one of those people wants to have a house, most of them want houses with yards," said John Jacob with the Texas Coastal Watershed program.

And believe it or not, a yard gulps more water than anything else in Texas. Fifty to 60 percent of water usage goes to watering residential and commercial lawns.

In 50 years, the eight-county region of the greater Houston area will exceed available water supply. And if development continues at the current pace, an additional 1,000 square miles of prairies, forest and prime farmland that help sustain water usage will be lost.

"That's the watershed, the water that falls on open ground, can seep into the ground, can flow into the streams, the water is cleaned, it's supports all the fauna, all the wildlife, our fisheries," Jacob said.

And right now, 87 percent of greater Houston's waterways are too polluted to meet their designated uses, like recreation and fishing.

"The sources come from waste water discharges -- that's one source," said Vincent Nathan with the Texas A&M Health Science Center. "Industrial runoff (is another), I mean we are a heavily petrochemical industry in this area."

And while clean ups and water saving strategies are being worked out, experts say there are ways to start now -- beginning with your sprinkler system.

"A lot of it is just education, learning how not to water so much," Jacob said.

One bright spot in Friday's reports is that at least for now, our drinking water meets all primary and secondary standards.