Earlier this month, Texas 2036 released the results from our fourth Texas Voter Poll. This poll included three questions relating to extreme weather and state water policy. The poll results indicate significant voter concerns with extreme weather trends and Texas’ capacity to address the challenges caused by drought.
In September 2021, Texas 2036 and the Office of the State Climatologist released a report on extreme weather trends in Texas. That report found that if extreme weather trends continue, then Texas will experience more than double the number of 100-degree days, higher levels of extreme rainfall and urban flooding, greater hurricane intensity, and increased drought severity by 2036. When asked about this trend, 77% of voters replied that they are concerned. Moreover, a majority, 53%, replied that they are extremely or very concerned about Texas’ extreme weather trends.
This concern about extreme weather transcends political party lines. According to the data, 65% of Republicans, 73% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats registered some level of concern with extreme weather.
The Texas Voter Poll included two questions about water. The first question asked voters how concerned they were that “if a severe drought occurs, then Texas will not be able to meet a significant amount of its water needs, meaning some communities may not have any access to water.” Nearly nine out of ten voters are worried about access to water during severe drought. Over one-third of voters, 38%, said that they were extremely concerned. Another 27% said that they were very concerned.
Looking at the partisan breakdown of the responses, 82% of Republicans, 87% of Independents, and 95% of Democrats registered some level of concern about accessing water during a drought. Moreover, voters in all regions registered substantial concern over this issue. The highest level of concern was in the Austin-Waco area with 94% total concern, followed by San Antonio-El Paso at 92%, and the West Texas and Dallas-Ft. Worth area tied at 88%. Interestingly, the Houston and East Texas area, where water is more plentiful, had the lowest levels of total concern – albeit at 88%.
The second water-related question centered on new approaches for delivering water supplies to where they are needed. Here, the poll asked voters if they agree or disagree with the following statement: “Texas cannot build enough water reservoirs to meet its growing needs, so we must rethink how water markets work and how water is priced before 10 million more people are living here over the next 14 years.” 73% of voters agreed with this statement, 12% disagreed, while the remaining 15% were neutral or unsure on the issue. On a partisan level, 80% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 67% of Republicans agreed that water markets and water pricing may be effective alternatives to building more reservoirs.
Voters in the San Antonio-El Paso and Austin-Waco area strongly supported this statement, with 79% and 78% in agreement, respectively. The lowest levels of agreement were in East and West Texas with 64% and 68% in respective agreement. Interestingly, only 15% of voters in these areas disagreed with this approach to water markets, the remainder were either unsure or neutral on the policy proposal.
Taken together, the Texas Voter Poll results show widespread concern about Texas’ water resources and extreme weather trends. The challenges presented by population growth and the ever-present threat of drought have prompted Texans to be both concerned for their access to water and receptive to new ideas on how to move water to where it is needed.