Texas 2036 Report
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Policy Pillars

Natural Resources

Pillar 05
Pillar 05

Texas manages natural resources to promote quality of life, economic advantage, and environmental stewardship.

Focus

Millions of Texans currently lack clean air and water. Sixty percent of all Texans live in areas that fail to meet federal air standards.
05-01

05-01

Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Nonattainment/Maintenance Status for Each County by Year for All Criteria. Pollutants, 2020. Based on county attainment status in 2018. Population of Texas counties from United States Census Bureau estimates for 2018. https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/greenbook/anayo_tx.html.

These individuals, especially children and the elderly, are at increased risk of chronic lung and breathing quality problems.
05-02

05-02

Environmental Protection Agency, Particle Pollution and Your Patients Health, Particle Pollution Exposure. https://www.epa.gov/pmcourse/particle-pollution-exposure.

Over 400 public water systems, most in rural areas, are designated as serious violators of federal water quality standards.
05-03

05-03

Environmental Protection Agency, Enforcement and Compliance History Online. Analyze Trends: Drinking Water Dashboard, Serious Violators in 2019. https://echo.epa.gov/trends/comparative-maps-dashboards/drinking-water-dashboard?state=Texas&view=activity&criteria=basic&yearvi ew=FY.

These communities have water contaminated with chemicals, heavy metals, and microbes that are public health risks.
05-04

05-04

Environmental Protection Agency, Report on the Environment: Drinking Water. https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/drinking-water.

Texas industries and municipalities risk water shortages. Statewide, unmet water needs currently exceed 4.8 million acre-feet per year, and demand is growing.
05-05

05-05

Texas Water Development Board, 2017 State Water Plan, Figure ES.4 - Projected annual water needs in Texas (millions of acre-feet). http://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/swp/2017/doc/SWP17-Water-for-Texas.pdf.

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05-06

05-06

Acre-feet is a common measure of water. One acre-foot is the amount of water it would take to flood one acre to the depth of one foot.

Unless these water needs are addressed, Texas could experience $73 billion in lost economic value annually.
05-07

05-07

Texas Water Development Board, 2017 State Water Plan, p.3. http://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/swp/2017/doc/SWP17-Water-for-Texas.pdf.

Growing water shortages — the difference between supply and demand during a drought — will limit the future viability of Texas agriculture, as major groundwater resources are being depleted faster than they can be replenished.
Texas’s open spaces and wildlife need to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. For the last 15 years, more than 80% of Texans have affirmed that “unless we protect Texas' natural areas, we will lose the very things that make Texas a special place in which to live.”
05-08

05-08

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Texas statewide voter opinion survey (summary), December 2014 conducted by Hill Research Consultants. https://www.tpwf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2014handout.pdf.

As urban development accelerates with population growth, preservation will become even more urgent.
Abundant natural resources have allowed Texas to prosper, but continued success depends on balancing economic growth with stewardship of air, water, and land. Texas’s agricultural and energy production contributes billions to state GDP and provides jobs for more than one in seven Texans.
05-09

05-09

American Farm Bureau Federation, Feeding the Economy: Agricultural Jobs by State, 2019. https://www.fb.org/market-intel/feeding-the-economy. agricultural-jobs-by-state.

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05-10

05-10

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Gross Domestic Product by Industry: Private Industries: Mining: Oil and Gas Extraction for Texas, 2019. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TXOILGASNGSP.

The state’s future success requires a balance between leading in these industries and ensuring Texans have sufficient and clean water, healthy air, and the ability to enjoy the land and wildlife.
Goal and Targets for Texas 2036
Goal #19 - Quality of Air: Texans have clean air.
• Target: All Texans live in areas that meet federal air quality standards by 2036.
• Baseline: 60% of Texans live in counties that fail to meet federal air quality standards.
Goal #20 - Sufficient Water: Texans can rely on a sufficient water supply.
• Target: Texas reduces its water shortage by 40% in 2036 (2.3 million additional acre-feet of water per year).
• Baseline: Texas’s water shortage is 5.6 million acre-feet per year.
Goal #21 - Quality of Water: Texans have clean water.
• Target: 100% of Texas water systems are in regular compliance with drinking water standards by 2036.
• Baseline: 97% of Texas water systems meet drinking water standards.
Goal #22 - Parks and Wildlife: Texas enhances and protects its state parks, public and private open spaces, and wildlife.
• Target: Texas maintains current ratios of 68 acres of preserved lands per 1,000 Texans and 306 park visits per 1,000 Texans in 2036.
• Baseline: Texas has 68 acres of preserved lands per 1,000 Texans and 306 state park visits per 1,000 Texans.
Goal #23 - Agricultural Production: Texas leads in agricultural production with responsible natural resource stewardship.
• Target: Texas ranks in the Top 6 highest in agricultural output per capita among its group of 12 Peer States while maintaining water use of 0.55 acre-feet per acre cropland by 2036.
• Baseline: Texas is ranked eighth in agricultural output per capita among Peer States and has water use of 0.55 acre-feet per acre cropland.
Goal #24 - Energy Production: Texas leads in energy production with responsible natural resource stewardship
• Target: Texas leads Peer States in traditional and renewable energy production and ranks in the Top 3 for lowest carbon intensity by 2036.
• Baseline: Texas is ranked first among Peer States for traditional energy production, third for renewable energy production, and fourth in carbon intensity among Peer States.

Context

Responsibility for Texas’s natural resources is divided among all levels of government as well as private actors who hold water, mineral, and land rights.

The majority of standard-setting takes place at the national level, through federal legislation and regulatory agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency sets national standards for air and water quality and has a reduced role in quality monitoring.
05-11

05-11

Title XIV of The Public Health Service Act: Safety of Public Water Systems (Safe Drinking Water Act). https://legcounsel.house.gov/Comps/Safe%20Drinking%20Water%20Act-(Title%20Xiv%20Of%20Public%20 Health%20Service%20Act).pdf.

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05-12

05-12

Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Act Overview: Roles of Government Partnerships to Reduce Air Pollution. https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/government-partnerships-reduce-air-pollution.

The U.S. Congress regularly passes new farm bills, which define guidelines and eligibility for risk management, disaster assistance, and conservation programs that provide support for farmers
05-13

05-13

Congressional Research Service, What is the Farm Bill? 2019. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22131.pdf.

State-level agencies are responsible for monitoring, permitting, and enforcing standards for natural resources. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has regulatory oversight over air emissions, water use, and water quality.
05-14

05-14

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Annual Report on Performance Measures Fiscal Year 2019. https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/comm_exec/pubs/sfr/055-19.pdf.

The Texas Water Development Board assists Texas communities with financing water infrastructure, coordinates the state water planning process, and monitors water-related data.
05-15

05-15

Texas Water Development Board, About the Texas Water Development Board. http://www.twdb.texas.gov/about/index.asp#twdb-history.

The Texas Railroad Commission regulates mineral activity, including permitting and reporting for oil and gas production.
05-16

05-16

Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Title 16. Economic Regulation Part 1. Railroad Commission of Texas. https://www.rrc.state.tx.us/general-counsel/rules/current-rules/.

The Legislature appropriated roughly $9 billion for the 2020-21 biennium for natural resources agencies.
05-17

05-17

Texas Legislative Budget Board, Updated 2018-19 Base and 2020-21 Appropriations Tables, by Article, All Funds, September 2019. https://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Documents/Publications/Other/Adjusted_MOF_Tables.pdf

Federal sources made up about 70% of these funds.
05-18

05-18

Ibid.

Outside of its legislative appropriations, the Texas Water Development Board has provided $29.2 billion in financing for water infrastructure projects since the agency’s inception in 1957.
05-19

05-19

Texas Water Development Board, Total Funding Commitments. s of February 29, 2020; http://www.twdb.texas.gov/newsmedia/funding_commitments/index.asp.

In Texas, private owners play a significant role in natural resource management. Eighty-three percent of land in Texas is classified as privately-owned working land, and under state law, groundwater and mineral rights can be transferred separately from the surface rights.
05-20

05-20

Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Texas Land Trends, Conservation Easements in Texas, January 2019. https://txlandtrends.org/media/xbnbzauu/conservationeasementsintexas.pdf.

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05-21

05-21

Ibid.

Development of water, land, and mineral rights for economic benefit usually requires approval from state agencies and is subject to regulation.