The Center for Houston’s Future estimates that it will cost $13 billion by the year 2060 to address issues with the region’s water supply, according to the organization’s annual Greater Houston’s Quality of Place.
The organization unveiled the report at its symposium Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
That figure includes accounting for population growth and improvements to the infrastructure, according to Sandra Wegmann, manager of strategic initiatives.
The water supply is sufficient for now, she said, but at current usage rates, but by the year 2060, the region will exceed the available water supply by about 35 percent, requiring an additional 1 billion gallons per day.
Wegmann also said it’s likely that some of the $13 billion will be passed on to consumers. Houston residents already have witnessed an initial response to the water supply by the City of Houston, which increased water rates last June. Businesses saw a near 10 percent increase, while rates for single-family homes went up 30 percent.
The report focused on the region’s water quality, water supply and green buildings, and was compiled with the assistance of data groups from eight counties, including local governments, businesses, academia, and research institutions.
Other findings from the report included:
• 87 percent of the Greater Houston region’s classified waterways are considered so polluted that they cannot meet their designated uses, i.e. drinking, recreation, or propagation/harvest of fish/shellfish.
• Aging wastewater infrastructure and nonpoint source runoff from yards, streets and agricultural fields contribute to high bacteria levels in the region’s waterways. Dioxins, PCBs, mercury and zinc continue to be serious problems in many of the region’s bays, estuaries and tidal sections of the rivers, creeks and bayous entering them — this is particularly true in the Houston Ship Channel.
• The Houston region’s number of LEED certified “green” buildings has increased from five in 2007 to 78 as of April 2010, making us third in the U.S. in the number of green buildings, behind Chicago and New York City. Green buildings reduce water consumption by 40 percent, energy consumption by as much as 50 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent and waste stream into landfills during construction by 50 to 75 percent.
• Brazoria and Waller counties are the only two counties in the eight-county region that do not regulate the pumping of groundwater to mitigate land subsidence, resulting in irreversible collapse of clay layers as a consequence of excessive groundwater withdrawal.