KERRVILLE — The future quality of the state’s environment and natural resources will depend on how Texas addresses issues of the growing population, a Texas A&M University agriculture economist said Thursday.
Almost 300 participants are attending a Summit III: Environmental and Natural Resource Policy for the 21st Century here.
The Texas Agricultural and Natural Resources Summit Initiative is an apolitical forum for people concerned about the future of Texas’s food, fiber and natural resources. The initiative was begun in 1993 on the principle that Texans can find workable solutions to any challenge if they are given an open forum to share ideas, according to Dr. Ed Hiler, Texas A&M vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences.
“More than 70 percent the growth will be from immigration rather than new births,” said Dr. Lonnie Jones of College Station, an economist for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
In 1996, the Texas population reached more than 19 million people making it the second most populous state behind California. By 2030, population will almost double to 33 million, he said.
That increase means more people with needs for the land, air and water — and makes it critical for policy makers to plan now, conferees were told.
Jones said the implications for the environment are intensified stress in critical areas such as border community water supply and quality, Coastal prairies bays and estuary quality and aquifer depletion in South Central Texas.
“Air and water quality is much better than it was 25 years ago,” said John Baker of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. He credited an industry-wide program that pledges to cut emissions by 50 percent by the year 2000. Many already have achieved that goal, he said.
Baker said the shift now will turn toward non-point pollution, or pollution from a source that can not be easily tracked. He said 65 percent of the pollutant runoff is attributed to urban areas and 15 percent comes from agriculture-related sources.
“Pesticides are no longer a major issue,” Baker said. “Now it is nutrients and to some extent bacteria” currently under scrutiny.
Baker said the commission prefers to work with people to get compliance with regulations but will not tolerate repeated noncompliance.
“This commission will be harder on those people who stand in our face and say they absolutely will not comply than any commission ever has been before,” Baker said.
Equally as important as water quality is quantity, participants were told . “The bottom line is that Texas is going to grow, and there will be a lot of competition and conflict between different population segments,” said Tommy Knowles with the Texas Water Development Board.
He noted that the demand for urban water will surpass that of agriculture in the next century.