Changes in urban and agricultural water use in the lower Colorado River valley of Texas

Authors: Brendan L. Lavy*, Binghamton University, Russell Weaver, Texas State University, Ronald R. Hagelman III, Texas State University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Human-Environment Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Water Resources, Water Use, Urban, Agriculture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom I, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Driven by continued population growth, commitments to sustaining economic development, and a changing climate, competition for water resources is intensifying across the world. Interests vying for dwindling water supplies test the institutions, infrastructure, and policies governing water distribution. In water stressed areas with growing urban populations, many water allocation systems struggle to balance competing demands under rigid distribution guidelines. In these areas, conflicts over access to water resources have emerged between urban and agricultural interests as managerial interventions occur with little warning and tend to favor urban over agricultural uses. This research documents changes in water use along an urban-to-agricultural gradient and explores linkages between shifts in water use and managerial interventions. We examine the changing relationship between long-established, commercial agricultural users in Texas’s lower Colorado River valley and the recent competing demands of one of North America’s fastest growing urban areas. We employed the change point model used to monitor industrial processes for quality control to locate shifts in water use. We interpret the results relative to documented managerial intervention events that occurred during the study period. Three distinctive groupings of change points emerged. Increasing urban water use and local climate shifts characterized the first period. Declines in agricultural water use and crop production defined the second. Lake level declines, lower river discharge, and drought conditions marked the third. Results indicate that shifts in water use happen incrementally but extreme environmental stress triggers rapid policy change. In these situations, adaptive management is essential to minimizing impacts across water users.

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