Abundant natural resources have allowed Texas to prosper, but continued success depends on balancing economic growth with stewardship of air, water, and land.
Millions of Texans currently lack clean air and water. Our state ranks ninth among peer states on exposure to particulate matter air pollution. Texans, especially children and the elderly, are at increased risk of chronic lung and breathing quality problems. Nearly 400 public water systems, most in rural areas, are designated as continuing or serious violators of federal water quality standards. These communities have water contaminated with chemicals, heavy metals, and microbes that are public health risks.
Texas industries and municipalities face the risk of water shortages. Texas’ unmet water needs are projected to exceed 4.7 million acre-feet by 2030, which is about 27 percent of Texas’ total water usage in 2020. That will cost the state $91 billion — each year — in lost economic activity. In addition, growing water shortages will limit the viability of Texas agriculture, as major groundwater resources are being depleted faster than they can be replenished.
Texas’ open spaces and wildlife must also 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.” Yet Texas ranks 10th among Peer States on the preserved lands available to residents per capita. Outdoor recreation is also a vital economic engine. In 2020, activities related to parks and park visits produced about $32 billion in gross state product and supported 300,000 jobs across Texas.
At the same time, Texas’ agricultural and energy production contributes billions to the Texas economy and supports millions of Texas jobs. The state’s future hangs in the balance between these industries and the preservation of its natural resources.