AUSTIN (KXAN) — Will the Austin metro region surpass the San Antonio metro in population size? Projections from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) anticipate the Austin area will take the lead come 2040.

The data comes from TWDB’s 2022 State Water Plan, which is used to assist in infrastructure development and conservation efforts. Under this 2022 plan, estimates anticipate Texas’ statewide population will grow more than 70% in a 50-year timespan, jumping from 29.7 million residents in 2020 to 51.5 million in 2070.

Under 2020 estimates, the Austin MSA’s five-county coverage area currently has a population of 2.3 million, compared to 2.5 million in San Antonio’s eight-county metro area. By 2040, however, those trends are expected to flip, with the Austin region pulling in 3.3 million residents while San Antonio will have just under 3.3 million people calling the region home.

Adam Perdue, a research economist with the Texas Real Estate Research Center, said these projections are promising given current growth trends exhibited here in Austin.

Some of the key reasons he’s not surprised by these predictions, Perdue said, are things most Austinites can see in their day-to-day lives.

“One of the reasons why we expect to see that [population trend] is the growing pains that Austin has had for the last couple of years — higher price increases in housing and across the board,” Perdue said. “And then also, you know, increasing congestion and other costs of living in a growing city.”

He said the Austin region and its leaders will need to be strategic in their planning to help ensure the growth is sustainable. He said these headaches are factors that “tend to slow down cities that are otherwise growing fast.”

That can make forecasting projections like these somewhat tricky, Perdue said.

“The Austin area has been growing faster — it’s probably the fastest growing part of the state of Texas, and has been growing faster than San Antonio, but at a slower rate,” Perdue said.

Still, the TWDB’s projections are useful tools to anticipate the infrastructural needs of a community, Perdue said. From a county level, 29 Texas counties are expected to double or more between 2020 and 2070 under these growth projections.

Some of the key growth areas are going to be in the areas surrounding the urban cores — in the Austin region, those includes counties like Bastrop, Hays and Caldwell, said Todd Danielson, vice president of engineering at Texas Water Utilities.

With population growth comes the critical need for water conservation and long-term planning efforts, officials with TWDB said in the 2022 report.

Danielson told KXAN the state is already used to water restrictions implemented during the state’s hot, dry summers. Now, this continued population boom will demand water conservation efforts at the local and municipal levels, he said.

Texas Water Utilities is expected to plan more than $200 million in capital improvements over the next three years. Looking out over a 50-year timespan, those population-spurred utility demands translate to $9 billion in needs.

“We’ll start thinking about how we use water like we’re currently thinking about how we use gasoline,” he said. “We’re buying more efficient vehicles, we’re consolidating our trips, we’re carpooling. Well, we’re gonna start to do the same thing for water on the individual and on the municipal level.”

To learn more about the 2022 State Water Plan, click here.