Texas Is Changing
We expect easy access to clean drinking water every day. Reliable electricity 24/7. Clean air, a stable economy, and a safe place to live. These are critical for healthy, thriving communities. Take any one of these away, and our wellbeing and livelihoods can deteriorate quickly.
But in Texas and elsewhere, the looming realities of rapid population growth and weather intensity mean that the things we rely on to live — water, energy, dependable infrastructure, and an ecosystem to support them — are under unprecedented risk.
Here’s why: Texas’ population today is nearly 28 million. By 2050, that number is predicted to double to 55 million, with most people clustered in already-dense urban centers like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Limited resources will be in even greater demand.
Add to that the environmental stress from prolonged droughts, record-breaking heat waves, and destructive floods, and what we have won’t be enough.
That’s our current trajectory, but we can still change course.
Planet Texas 2050 is an eight-year sprint to find solutions that will make our communities more resilient and better prepared. To do that, we’re bringing together architects, archaeologists, city planners, public health experts, geologists, engineers, computer scientists, artists — and more.
Just as important, what we discover will have applications that extend far beyond our region. We’ll share our findings, tools, and processes with researchers across the U.S. and the world who are facing similar challenges in the 21st century.
Our Goal: Sustaining Critical Resources
Without essentials like water and energy, the systems we rely on — infrastructure to move goods and people, dependable emergency services, and more — will fail. Our ability to sustain those critical resources at levels that can support massive population growth and climatic shifts is in jeopardy.
Planet Texas 2050 researchers are committed to developing programs and policy recommendations that will improve Texas’ adaptability and build its resilience. To do that, their work will focus on understanding the interconnectedness of four critical resource systems.
How much water do we have, where is it, and how do we get it? Texas has made great strides when it comes to assessing questions of water availability, but we still don’t have all the answers. Our team will consider several water challenges, from measuring water availability today to reconstructing the region’s paleoclimate. Integrating new data will provide a better understanding of Texas’ future.
We use energy — oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and nuclear power — to move people and commerce, power lights, and heat and cool homes. As populations grow, the mix of energy sources will have to change to meet demand while staying affordable and minimizing environmental harm. Our work will focus on gaining a comprehensive understanding of the state’s energy sources and production capabilities.
Texas’ urban centers will undergo a population explosion in the next 30 years. Unaddressed, this will further exacerbate environmental and health problems, traffic congestion, and affordability. We must better manage water distribution, improve transportation planning, increase the prevalence of energy-efficient construction, and mitigate traffic-related air pollution.
Healthy ecosystems are critical. They give us crop pollination and shade, water filtration and natural carbon sequestration. But as Texas’ population grows and droughts and floods become more severe, the resources our lands provide will be threatened. Our researchers will map Texas’ most vulnerable areas and study what effects population growth and weather extremes have on the ecosystem services we rely on.
Solving a Challenge, One Project at a Time
To address the most urgent issues affecting our region, Planet Texas 2050 is conducting new research, launching educational programs, and partnering with organizations and community groups throughout the state.
Optimal Averaging of Water Resources
Planet Texas 2050 hydrologists and geologists will attempt to answer important questions about the water cycle in Texas: How much water is actually in Texas, and what methods are best … Keep reading
Texas Metro Observatory
Planet Texas 2050 researchers will build a communication and data platform focused on economic, environmental, health, demographic, and governmental information for each of the state’s metropolitan regions. The Texas Metro … Keep reading
Population Dynamics in Premodern Societies
While the rise of mega-cities is a modern trend, urban centers also played an important role in past societies, and these ancient cities encountered many of the challenges we face … Keep reading
Texas Water Stories: Local Narratives of Hydrologic Change and Adaptation
Planet Texas 2050 scientists will be measuring, mapping, and studying water sources throughout the state. At the same time, our researchers will be talking with communities in three key regions … Keep reading
Artist-in-Residence: Lorenz Graybelt
Sculptor and performance artist Marie Lorenz will design a video map of the water that flows down Texas’ Colorado River — one of the state’s primary water sources — into … Keep reading
Urban Watershed Evolution
Watersheds — the area of drainage where all water collects to a given stream — serve as microcosms and give scientists unique insights into how climate changes and urban development … Keep reading
DataX is the first of its kind and underscores all of Planet Texas 2050. It’s a next generation integrated data analytics platform designed by experts and powered by the supercomputers … Keep reading
Transportation-Related Air Pollutants and Health
As cities become more densely populated, people will be forced to live in very close proximity to highways, which will increase their exposure to transportation-related air pollution. Proximity to these … Keep reading
The Texas Advanced Computing Center hosts a series of free summer camps each year high school students. This past summer, TACC introduced Code@TACC Connected, which taught students how to use … Keep reading
This program, designed by UT’s Environmental Science Institute, brings current UT graduate student experts into a local teachers’ classrooms to help them develop new, engaging activities and lesson plans that … Keep reading
Austin Metro Listening Tour
Before embarking on research of this scale, graduate students, under the direction of research chair Katherine Lieberknecht, spent several months meeting with city and county officials around central Texas. Their … Keep reading