Ground water in the Texas-Gulf Region is a large and important resource that can provide a more significant percentage of the total water supply of the region. Total water requirements within the region are projected to rise sharply from 14 million acre-feet (17 cubic kilometres) in 1970 to nearly 26 million acre-feet (32.cubic kilometres) in 2020. About half of the water used in 1970 was ground water.
An estimated total of 1.04 billion acre-feet (1,280 cubic kilometres) of recoverable water containing less than 3,000 milligrams per litre dissolved solids is stored above a depth of 400 feet (122 metres) in the aquifers of the region. In addition, part of an estimated 3.28 billion acre-feet (4,040 cubic kilometres) of water in storage below 400 feet (122 metres) is recoverable. Although not all of the ground water in storage is recoverable, a significant amount is available for development, and an enormous quantity is accessible should occasions prompt its use on a time-limited basis.
The total steady-state yield (amount of water that approximates the maximum perennial replenishment from precipitation) of the region's aquifers is about 4.6 million acre-feet (5.7 cubic kilometres) annually, or about 2.3 times the ground-water usage in 1970 if the large mining draft on the High Plains is not considered as part of the total steady-state yield. Because of the large quantity of recoverable ground water in storage, the steady-state yield can be augmented for a very long time on a 'deferred' basis, whereby the economic use of the water that is withdrawn from storage in excess of the steady-state yield may result in a strengthened economy.
An important goal in programs for meeting future water needs should be to identify the full potential of the available ground-water resources. The subsurface reservoirs may be utilized not only as sources of fresh and treatable water, but as storage facilities for other fresh-water-supplies and as possible sources of geothermal energy. Some saline-water reservoirs may be suitable for liquid-waste storage or disposal.
Large-scale and unregulated ground-water pumping may result in hydrologic problems such as declining water levels, streamflow depletion, and land-surface subsidence; but studies on proper development of the groundwater reservoirs could provide solutions to many of the problems. Water rights and other legal concepts should be based on sound hydrologic principles to assist development of water resources in an orderly and efficient manner.
Because significant amounts of ground water are available, the opportunities for expanded and conjunctive use of ground water and surface water should be considered in regional plans for water development and conservation. The complexities of water management and the difficulties of achieving an integrated system of total water management will require additional technical information.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Summary appraisals of the Nation's ground-water resources; Texas Gulf region