Exploring Groundwater Recoverability in Texas: Maximum Economically Recoverable Storage
The 2017 Texas state water plan projects total supply deficits of 4.8 and 8.9 million acre-feet under drought-of-record conditions by the year 2020 and 2070, respectively, driven by a growing population concurrent with declining available water supplies. Reductions in groundwater supply account for 95% of anticipated declines in total water supply. Meanwhile, restrictive groundwater management plans may be creating a regulation-induced shortage of groundwater in Texas, given the significant groundwater storage volumes that are unutilized under many management plans. However, these estimates do not account for many of the physical and none of the economic constraints to groundwater recoverability. We report an analysis of groundwater extraction feasibility and simulate maximum economically recoverable storage for conditions representative of the central section of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer under economic constraints associated with agricultural uses. Two key limitations are applied to simulate recoverability: (1) the value of water pumped relative to pumping costs and (2) the capacity of the aquifer and well to meet demand. Our results indicate that these constraints may limit certain uses to as little as 1% of current groundwater availability estimates. We suggest that Texas groundwater managers, stakeholders, and policymakers assessing groundwater availability need an alternate approach for estimating recoverability.