Doggett Gets Funding for Texas State University Climate Change Research

A publicly available tool will project climate impacts on state water resources

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, speaking at Texas State University's Meadows Center for Water and the Environment on Feb. 9 (Courtesy of Lloyd Doggett’s office)

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has secured a second round of federal appropriations, to the tune of $2.48 million, for the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University to study the effects of climate change on Texas water resources. The funds, which add to an initial $2 million investment Doggett obtained last year, will advance the next phase of a three-to-five-year study "developing actionable projections for how climate change is impacting our water," said Doggett in a press release last week. Dr. Robert Mace, the Meadows Center's executive director, will lead the research along with Ph.D. students at Texas State.

"As academics, we can't advocate for solutions. But what we can do is provide information and analysis to inform policymakers," says Mace. Currently this kind of research is "just not out there. There are some tiny watershed studies, some water utilities that have looked at climate change" – notably Austin Water, in the city's Water Forward Plan. "Our goal is to democratize access to that information." The study will produce a publicly available tool allowing regional water planners to build climate impacts into their management plans.

The Highland Lakes, which supply much of Austin's drinking water, are experiencing record low inflows and increased evaporation, and Mace says surface water will continue having a declining yield due to rising temperatures, drought, and development. The largest Central Texas groundwater source, the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, is now largely committed to industry, including Samsung's 11 planned semiconductor plants, Tesla factories, and Austin's ever-growing commuter ring. Projects that store water underground for future use, like Austin's Aquifer Storage and Recovery, are the kinds of solutions with promise, says Mace.

Last summer, when Doggett unveiled the initial investment, he was "not optimistic" about the Texas Legislature planning for the climate-driven water crisis. Despite the Lege's new bipartisan Water Caucus and GOP committee chairs such as Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, publicly acknowledging the prospect of future water scarcity, Mace still doesn't expect much climate change planning in Texas at the moment. "But that may change with time, and it probably will change with time. We want to provide tools for those that want to plan for climate change today, but also for those that maybe [will] five years from now. If one day the Legislature wakes up and goes, 'Holy cow, we need to do something about climate change' … they'll have a playbook ready to go."

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