The Texas Legislature is addressing water desalination in the way it should — years before the water purification process becomes mandatory for the state.

Water already is in short supply in 2014, so start planning desalination now. Why wait until Texas gets dangerously close to running out of water to begin dealing with the matter?

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee to Study Water Desalination heard testimony about costs and other details of desalination from water experts at a recent hearing.

The joint committee, which includes five state senators and seven House members, will have public hearings throughout the state in weeks to come.

Desalination is removing salt and impurities from seawater or brackish groundwater to make it usable for human consumption.

Texas has more than 26 million people and is projected to have more than 46 million by 2060.

After years of drought, water supplies are getting scarce in many parts of the state. Lubbock and other cities have drought restrictions in place.

If that’s the circumstance now, what will it be like in the year 2060, with 20 million more thirsty Texans than we have now?

Members of the joint committee were told municipal water demands likely will increase by more than 70 percent over the current need in 2060.

The weather in Texas is not going to support the water demands of the future, testified Steve Lyons, a meteorologist in charge of the Weather Forecast Office in San Angelo and an adjunct professor of tropical and marine weather at Texas A&M University.

Desalination will be a necessity to generate water for the needs of the Lone Star State.

San Antonio is building a desalination plant, according to Gregorio Flores III, vice president of public affairs at the San Antonio Water System.

The estimated cost of desalinating 1,000 gallons of water is $3.49, he said. That’s probably less than most people would expect.

The average family uses about 6,500 gallons a month, which means about $22 more per month.

Cities such as Houston or Corpus Christi could easily use nearby seawater for desalination, but questions remain about the process and costs: Would pipelines have to be built between the Gulf Coast and other Texas cities? How many places in Texas could desalinate salty groundwater?

Private industries in America historically have found the cheapest and most efficient ways to solve problems. Competitive businesses may be able to lower the costs of desalination even more.

The problems of Texas’ future water needs are clear, and it’s obvious desalination will have to be part of the solution.

The Legislature is working to make it possible to have the desalination technology and infrastructure in place when it is needed. That farsightedness is going to be vital some day in the not-too-distant future.

At-a-glance

¦ Our position: The drought of recent years isn’t over, but it’s encouraging to receive the rainfall we have had in May and June. But even if the drought officially ended this summer and another drought did not come for the next 45 years, there still would not be enough water, based on average levels of Texas rainfall, to meet the needs of Texas in 2060.

¦ Why you should care: People have taken water for granted for many decades, but Texas officials and residents are beginning to understand what an important commodity it is. Desalination will be an important part of providing our state's water needs in the future.

©2014 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas)