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Liquid Assets: The State of Texas’ Water Resources

Region O Plan


Llano Estacado Region (O)



Located in the Southern High Plains region of the Texas Panhandle, Region O, also known as the Llano Estacado region, includes 21 counties, bounded on the north by Deaf Smith County, Motley and Dickens counties to the east, Gaines and Dawson counties to the south, and New Mexico on the western edge (Exhibit 38). Small portions of the Canadian, Red, Brazos and Colorado rivers are located in the area, although almost no surface water leaves the region. Instead, surface water is captured by nearly 14,000 playa basins, which are natural water collecting pools. Major industries in the region include livestock and cotton production. Major cities in the region include Lubbock, Brownfield, Plainview and Hereford.

Region O Map

Text Description of the Llano Estacado Region (O)

Exhibit 38: Map of the Llano Estacado Region (O)

Strategies Used and Estimated Costs

In order to meet the region’s projected water demands in 2060, the Llano Estacado Planning Group recommended 13 water management strategies to address most future water needs. In all, the strategies would provide 441,511 acre-feet of additional water supply by 2060, with total projected capital costs exceeding $818.6 million. The region’s water management strategies fall into four general categories: irrigation conservation, groundwater development, brackish groundwater desalination, and infrastructure connecting Lubbock to the Alan Henry reservoir (Exhibit 39).126

Status of Major Water Projects and Strategies

The state has committed nearly $23 million toward the construction of a pipeline from Lake Alan Henry to the city of Lubbock. Currently, the project is in the design and testing phase, with completion of the pipeline scheduled for 2012. The project includes 50 miles of pipeline, 3 pumping stations, and a treatment plant for distribution within the city of Lubbock.

Region O also plans to amend the state water plan with one major reduction and various additions. The region no longer plans to develop the reservoir Canyon Lake 8 and is working with the TWDB to remove the project. Instead, the City of Lubbock plans to purchase and develop Post Reservoir from the City of Post in exchange for water rights. Infrastructure from the Lake Alan Henry pipeline will transport and treat water from this reservoir. Lubbock is also negotiating with the Brazos River Authority to designate water from playa basins as city water. This water would reach Lubbock through the Lake Alan Henry pipeline after a diversion from North Fork. The state plan must be amended to include these additions.127

According to the TWDB, if the strategies listed above are not implemented, the region could lose $103 million in income and over 4,400 full- and part-time jobs by 2010. By 2060, the cost could be about $387 million in income and nearly 13,700 jobs. In addition, state and local governments could lose $10 million in annual tax revenue by 2010 and about $32 million by 2060.128

Exhibit 39

Llano Estacado Region (O) Water Management Strategies

Description Capital Costs Water Gained in Acre-Feet Average Capital Cost per Acre-Feet
Conservation $353,510,000 337,790 $1,047
Desalination $10,051,230 3,360 $2,991
Groundwater $43,986,161 50,421 $872
Reuse $29,746,680 2,240 $13,280
Surface Water $381,336,000 47,700 $7,995
Total $818,630,071 441,511 $1,854

Note: Capital cost figures do not include administrative, programmatic or other costs that may be required to implement water management strategies.

Source: Texas Water Development Board.

Regional Challenges and Successes

Due to heavy reliance on groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer, the region’s main concern is the accurate measurement of groundwater availability. New modeling of the Ogallala’s water capacity suggests that the aquifer has greater recharge capacity than was reported for purposes of state and regional water planning. The planning group claims that original modeling was based on incomplete starting volumes of the aquifer in 1995 and 2000, due to drought conditions and unusually high demand. Furthermore, some of the region’s counties assumed that up to 80 percent of aquifer capacity in their area will remain in storage through 2060, rather than factoring into supply and demand estimates. The region believes that water supply and demand could be more accurately modeled using more complete data. Also, the region recommends a variety of conservation practices that would contribute to recharge efforts, notably vegetation control efforts in lake watershed districts, as well as efforts to improve irrigation.129

Endnotes

  • 126 Texas Water Development Board, Water for Texas 2007 (Austin, Texas, January 2007), Volume II, pp. 97-100, www.twdb.state.tx.us/publications/reports/State_Water_Plan/2007/2007StateWaterPlan/CHAPTER%202_REGIONAL%20O%20final%20112706.pdf. (Last visited January 5, 2009.)
  • 127 Interview with Aubrey Spear, director of Water Utilities, City of Lubbock, Lubbock, Texas, November 19, 2008.
  • 128 Texas Water Development Board, Water for Texas 2007, Volume II, p. 252.
  • 129 Llano Estacado Regional Water Planning Group, Llano Estacado Regional Water Plan: Executive Summary, by HDR Engineering, Inc. (Lubbock, Texas, January 2006), pp. ES-23-27, www.llanoplan.org/May%202006%20REVISED%20LERWPG%20Plan/4%20-%20Region%20O%20Executive%20Summary%20Final%202006%20Plan.pdf. (Last visited January 5, 2009.) (Consultant’s report.)
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