Model & Strategy
By 2050, the population of Texas is set to double, driving a projected 35% increase in municipal water demand. While cities and industries are positioned to capture the water they will need, other users like farmers, rural communities, and rivers and bays are less water secure than ever. All but one of the major aquifers in Texas are being managed for depletion, and all river basins have more water permitted than is available in typical years. Texas is already seeing the effects of water demand outpacing supply, whether in the form of springs and rivers running dry or Texan households stranded without water for basic household needs. Low-income communities are least likely to access the tools they need to preserve water security, a reality to the more than 1M Texans who today lack access to clean, affordable drinking water at home.
Despite these looming threats to our water security, the Texas legislature has long said that markets, not regulation should drive the state’s water solutions. Until Texas Water Trade was created, there was no entity that existed to catalyze water transactions to ensure water security for both rural and urban populations and the ecosystems on which they depend.
Texas Water Trade (TWT) has two strategies to accomplish their mission of increasing water access for underserved populations:
- They are acting as the central catalyst in Texas to bolster the “water credit” ecosystem to both conserve and preserve water, and
- They are piloting a community-based initiative (Vida Water) to provide clean water to communities that don’t have it.
TWT’s differentiator is their ability to implement real-world projects in cooperation with the public and private sectors by providing technical resources and funding support. So far, TWT has secured the first dedicated deliveries of water to the Texas Coast, where, through contracts with institutional partners such as river authorities, they are delivering environmental flows to critical wetlands and estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. They have implemented the state’s first Aquifer Resilience Fund to incentivize cities and farms in West Texas to co-invest in water conservation. In the rapidly urbanizing Texas Triangle, they are investing in solutions that add new water to our state’s portfolio through a concept known as “Net Zero Water,” which taps into the potential for buildings to generate their own water. And they are coordinating with community health organizations, academic institutions, and nonprofit partners to create workforce development solutions to build the next generation of water professionals, focusing on underserved communities.
In the next three years, TWT plans to protect or restore an additional 50,000 acre-feet of water in priority aquifers, rivers, and bays through the use of voluntary water transactions such as contracts with water managers and incentive programs with water users. They will protect the drinking and/or recreational water of more than 40,000 Texans and serve more than 20,000 Texans with clean drinking water through solutions such as point-of-use filtration.
Sharlene founded Texas Water Trade in 2018, bringing a decade of experience in sustainable water finance long-range water planning and water transactions. Previously, she directed the Texas Environmental Flows Initiative, a collaboration of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the Harte Research Institute, The Nature Conservancy and several other groups, to purchase water for the bays and estuaries of the Texas Gulf Coast. She also chaired the Austin Water Forward Task Force, which developed a groundbreaking 100-year water plan approved unanimously by the Austin City Council in 2018.
Sharlene holds a BA in Physics and English from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was a fellow in the MIT-USGS Science Impact Collaborative. She serves as founding Board Chair of Vida Water PBC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Texas Water Trade, which aims to provide clean and affordable drinking water for underserved populations in Texas.
Texas Water Trade has protected or restored 28,000 acre-feet of water in priority aquifers, rivers, and bays.
Texas Water Trade has protected the drinking and/or recreational waters of 25,732 Texans.