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.

Water

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.

Energy

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.

Urbanization

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.

Ecosystem Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DataX

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

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

Blue Index

Blue Index

Blue Index is a participatory research project designed to gather feedback about 33 waterscapes throughout Austin. Led by Kevin Jeffery, a graduate student in landscape architecture, Blue Index focuses on … Keep reading

Code@TACC

Code@TACC

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

Scientist-in-Residence

Scientist-in-Residence

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

Graduate Seminars and Project-Based Courses

Graduate Seminars and Project-Based Courses

Planet Texas 2050 faculty lead graduate classes that are open to master’s and Ph.D.-level students across all schools and departments at UT. These courses delve into concepts and issues central … Keep reading

Austin Metro Listening Tour

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

ACDDC Partnership

ACDDC Partnership

Planet Texas 2050 is partnering with the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC) to create a solutions-driven community center. Our pilot project will be a place where knowledge and … Keep reading

Team Members

UT’s first grand challenge brings together researchers from 14 colleges, schools, and units across campus, a number that is expected to grow as more projects are added each year.

Read full bioJay Banner

Jay Banner

ProfessorGeological Sciences

My research explores Earth surface processes, including climate and hydrologic processes. Much of that focuses on the study of cave deposits, carbonate rocks, and modern aquifers and watersheds.

Read full bioHeather Houser

Heather Houser

Associate ProfessorEnglish

My background is in English literary studies, and my research focuses on how contemporary literature and visual culture contribute to how we understand and respond to environmental crises.

Read full bioFernanda Leite

Fernanda Leite

Associate ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

My research and teaching interests include building and civil information modeling and collaboration and coordination technologies, project management and economics, and construction safety.

Read full bioKatherine Lieberknecht

Katherine Lieberknecht

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Architecture

I study how ecosystems support cities and the residents living within them. My work focuses on urban water planning, metropolitan-scaled green infrastructure planning, and metropolitan food systems.

Read full bioSuzanne Pierce

Suzanne Pierce

Research ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

I’m a trained groundwater scientist, and I lead an NSF-funded effort to apply artificial intelligence and knowledge-centered computing to solve complex Earth resource problems.

Read full bioAdam Rabinowitz

Adam Rabinowitz

Associate ProfessorClassics

I study the interplay between individuals’ daily lives and the unfolding of larger, historical processes — and on the interdisciplinary research methods necessary to connect the two.

Read full bioLourdes Rodríguez

Lourdes Rodríguez

DirectorCommunity-Driven Initiatives

My work focuses on community health outside the traditional health system, especially on inviting people from multiple sectors to contribute to solving local problems with local ideas and resources.

Read full bioMichael Young

Michael Young

Associate DirectorBureau of Economic Geology

My focus is on environmental geosciences, with an emphasis on soil, water, and managing ecosystem resources to avoid shortages, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions of the U.S.

Paul Adams

ProfessorGeography and the Environment

Joshua Apte

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering / Population Health

Timothy Beach

ProfessorGeography and the Environment

Patrick Bixler

Assistant Professor of PracticeLBJ School of Public Affairs

Bryan Black

Associate ProfessorMarine Science

Deborah Bolnick

Associate ProfessorAnthropology

Joonyee Chuah

Sr. Outreach Program CoordinatorTexas Advanced Computing Center

Neil Crain

Research ScientistCenter for Energy and Environmental Resources

Alicia Danze

Graduate Student ResearcherGeography and the Environment

Charlie Dey

Portal and Gateway DeveloperTexas Advanced Computing Center

Kristin Donaldson

Graduate Student ResearcherSchool of Architecture

Kasey Faust

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Juliana Felkner

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Norma Fowler

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

Benjamin Gregg

Associate ProfessorGovernment

Christopher Herrington

Environmental EngineerCity of Austin Watershed Protection Department

Johann Hofmann

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

Heather Houser

Associate ProfessorEnglish

Dawn Hunter

Sr. Outreach Program CoordinatorTexas Advanced Computing Center

Craig Jansen

GUI DeveloperTexas Advanced Computing Center

Christopher Jordan

Research Engineering ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

Tim Keitt

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

Kerry Kinney

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Mary Jo Kirisits

Associate ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Katherine Lieberknecht

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Angelina Jean Locker

Graduate Student ResearcherAnthropology

Marie Lorenz

Artist-in-ResidenceArt and Art History

Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

ProfessorGeography and the Environment

Ashley Matheny

Assistant ProfessorGeological Sciences

Elizabeth Matsui

Director of Clinical and Translational ResearchPopulation Health

Elena McDonald-Buller

Sr. Research EngineerCenter for Energy and Environmental Resources

Atila Novoselac

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Fikile Nxumalo

Assistant ProfessorCurriculum & Instruction

Michael Oden

Associate ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Suzanne Pierce

Research ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

Mary Poteet

Research FellowIntegrative Biology

Adam Rabinowitz

Associate ProfessorClassics

Kelly Raley

ProfessorSociology

Stuart Reichler

Sr. LecturerCollege of Natural Sciences

Lourdes Rodríguez

DirectorCommunity-Driven Initiatives, Dell Medical School

Lea Hildebrandt Ruiz

Assistant ProfessorChemical Engineering

Astrid Runggaldier

Assistant DirectorThe Mesoamerica Center

Bridget Scanlon

HydrogeologistBureau of Economic Geology

Christy Schirmer

Assistant InstructorClassics

Mateo Scoggins

Environmental ScientistCity of Austin Watershed Protection Department

Allan Shearer

Associate ProfessorSchool of Architecture

David Stuart

ProfessorArt and Art History

Rachel Thomas

Graduate Student ResearcherSchool of Architecture

Justin Thompson

Graduate Student ResearcherJackson School of Geosciences / LBJ School of Public Affairs

Fred Valdez

ProfessorAnthropology

Corinne Wong

Research ScientistEnvironmental Science Institute

Sarah Wu

Program CoordinatorCenter for Sustainable Development

Dennis Wylie

Research ScientistCenter for Biomedical Research Support

Michael Young

Associate DirectorBureau of Economic Geology

Ming Zhang

Associate ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Clare Zutz

Graduate Student ResearcherSchool of Architecture

Joni Adamson

Professor, English and Environmental HumanitiesArizona State University

Phil Berke

Director, Institute of Sustainable CommunitiesTexas A&M University

Richard Corsi

Dean, Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer SciencePortland State University

Dave Dzombak

Professor, Civil & Environmental EngineeringCarnegie Mellon University

James Famiglietti

Director, Global Institute for Water SecurityUniversity of Saskatchewan

Marilu Hastings

Vice President, Sustainability ProgramsCynthia and George Mitchell Foundation

Vipin Kumar

Professor, Computer Science & EngineeringUniversity of Minnesota

Ruth Mostern

Associate Professor, HistoryUniversity of Pittsburgh

Sheila Olmstead

Professor, Public AffairsUT Austin

Deanna Pennington

Associate Professor, Geological SciencesUT El Paso

Elizabeth Sall

FounderUrbanLabs, LLC

Lois Takahashi

Professor Emeritus, Urban Planning and Asian American StudiesUCLA

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