Becky Johnson, professor of professional practice in the School of Geology, Energy & the Environment, is working with the Tarrant Regional Water District on a project that aims to address the impending need for a solution to Texas’ future water supply. The project is known as the Integrated Pipeline Project and involves the construction of a pipeline from East Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to increase available raw water supply sources needed for the growing DFW population.
“DFW is growing, and the question is, where will the water come from?” Johnson said. “Without a water supply that meets the demands of population growth, businesses won’t come here and population growth will stall or even decline. Water is necessary to our survival and its availability directly relates to a city’s growth.”
The population of the DFW Metroplex (16 counties) is expected to approach 13 million people by the year 2060. The projected water demand in 2060 is almost twice the current supply. To meet the projected demands, a combination of conservation and significant new infrastructure construction is essential for the DFW Metroplex.
The 150-mile pipeline will pull water from reservoirs in East Texas, including Lake Palestine, to deliver approximately 350 million gallons per day to North Texas. Plans estimate that the first-phase pipeline will be completed in 2020.
Johnson is working with the TRWD to assess economic impacts resulting from the construction of the pipeline. She received funding that allowed her to hire TCU students to assess each of the seven counties in which construction will take place. Because the construction will last a minimum of two years in each county, the construction workers are predicted to act as an economic stimulus, creating an opportunity for these counties to take advantage of the increased demand for items and services such as health care, food, auto repair and fuel. In addition to increased spending, the construction will create new jobs within the counties, both in the actual construction, and in the demand for additional services from existing businesses.
To make these predictions, Johnson and her students were trained to use a model called IMPLAN (IMpact analysis for PLANning) that allows data input to predict scenarios, such as economic impacts. The model considers more than 400 economic indicators for each individual county as well as the construction spending data in relation to the counties, allowing it to predict the outcome (or economic stimulus). The data provided will allow the counties to take advantage of the opportunity for economic growth during the construction, where the majority of the opportunity exists.
The Tarrant Regional Water District and the city of Dallas Water Utilities partnered to design, build and operate the IPL. The collaboration of the cities will eliminate the need to construct two pipelines, saving taxpayers an estimated $1 billion over the life of the project.
The TCU research team modeled the estimated economic impacts generated from the expected $2.3 billion IPL project to establish a baseline of economic impacts on the seven counties associated with the design, construction and operation of the IPL.
The 20-year IPL project is estimated to create 1,600 jobs annually, of which 1,039 will be direct jobs on the pipeline construction and 337 are induced jobs (created from personal spending by IPL employees within the local economy).
Including an overview of the current water supply and the needs of water in North Texas provided by Southern Methodist University, the TCU research team produced a comprehensive report, in addition to individual fact sheets for each of the seven counties, detailing the economic impacts expected as a result of the construction.
Johnson worked with the TRWD for more than a year before the contract was signed in July 2014 for TCU to analyze the data and create the report analyzing the economic impacts. The collaboration benefits TRWD by providing an independent and unbiased report from a university, and also allows students working on the project an opportunity to observe a real-world scenario from an academic perspective.
Johnson, a self-proclaimed outdoors enthusiast, enjoys her work. Having originally attended school for geology, she returned to school to earn her master’s in environment science, and has since worked in the environmental industry in the Metroplex for more than 25 years.
“I get paid to do my hobby, so it really doesn’t feel like work,” Johnson said. “I get to do what I love and at the end of the day, I feel good about what I’m doing.”