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  Civil Works Strategic Plan

Urbanization and Rapid Population Growth

Rapid rural-urban outmigration combined with natural population growth are driving a population explosion in major metropolitan areas across the nation. In the Southwestern Division alone we see this happening in the Dallas / Fort Worth metro area as well as in Houston, Oklahoma City, and Northwestern Arkansas. These changes in population bring with them numerous challenges in relation to water and water resource management.

Population growth impacts water resources

Opportunity brings people - and SWD's operational foot print contains some of the most successful and fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Between 2010 and 2019, the Dallas / Fort Worth Metropolitan area experienced the largest growth in population in the nation. Right behind DWF was the Houston Metro. These two successful cities aren't the only ones experiencing this explosive population growth. In Northwestern Arkansas, the Northwestern Arkansas Metropolitan area was ranked as in the top 20 fastest growing metro areas in the nation as well.

This incredible growth reflects a broader global trend in which population growth and urbanization are becoming increasingly synonymous. There are aspects of this growth that are incredibly positive - such as improved economics and opportunity as well as greater racial and ethnic diversity. Unfortunately, this kind of growth also brings new challenges that must be faced. Foremost is the added strain on limited water resources. SWD plays host to seventy percent of all water storage in the region. Municipalities, water utility providers, and others are constantly trying to provide increased water from both new and old sources. This can create a feedback loop where more access to water can increase the population to the point where more water is needed. Where once a surplus existed, rapid population growth can quickly create an unsustainable situation that affects both water supply and water quality.

More than just water, increased populations create greater demand for energy, food, and recreation. As families and individuals move to urban centers to find greater opportunity they contribute to these feedback loops by demanding homes, electricity, food, luxury items, and recreation. All of these things are often tied to water. Hydropower can help fill gaps in power grids, which requires civil works such as hydropower capable dams. Homes require timber, people require food which must be sustained by agriculture, agriculture and farms are notoriously water dependent for their success. As businesses growth and adapt to meet demands in high-growth areas, new problems arise as waste water and water treatment resources are strained and local communities become more susceptible to extreme weather and flooding.

Communities must act now to prepare for the growing demand on water supply. Implementing integrated water resource management (IWRM) promotes the coordination land and water resources. Evaluating the needs and commitments for entire watershed areas has proven to be more successful in balancing resources and needs. That doesn't mean that there won't be hard decisions to make, so to ensure priorities are met and balanced, it is vital that an integrated team evaluates all needs and resources.

Water is very dynamic and used in almost everything we do. Unfortunately, most of us don't consider that every drop of water is connected. We do little to manage water quality and quantity in a holistic manner. Integrated Water Resource Management is an approach to understand water systems and drive policies and everyday usage to maximize multiple-use potential and ensure future sustainability. 

Water is a system with multiple inputs and outputs. Recognizing the interconnected nature of water allows us to extend the resource. Integrated Water Resource Management brings different organizations with different water uses together to see how they can collaborate and maximize water use. In its simplest form, Integrated Water Resource Management looks at all water needs and finds a way to meet those needs using the least amount of water. We see this with cities that regulate and establish natural buffers around waterways to help reduce flooding, improve water quality, and improve aquatic habitat. We se it in developments that use water-catch systems so rainwater can be used to water the grass and landscaping.

We need everyone to think about their water needs and usage as a connected system. When we look at water as a system, we can begin to look at how the system can meet multiple needs at once. In addition, water resource agencies as well as local and state governments can share data, information, and planning documents with one another to assess potential mutual benefits of water management. When we recognize water is constantly being used and reused as it moves through its system, we can develop plans that makes its multiple purposes most effective.

We want to work with you in solving complex water resource issues. Reach out to us today! Let us know what your agency, city, state, group, or community can do it help.


Strategic Response Plan

Civil Works Strategic Plan