Take chance to meet state's water demand
BY PHILLIP S. SPENRATH
Oct. 29, 2013 at 5:29 a.m.
Next Tuesday's election will be Texas' best and possibly only chance to secure ample water supplies for the next 50 years.
As most are aware, our Texas does not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses and its agricultural enterprises during times of serious drought. With more than 1,000 new residents moving in each day, our state population will rise 82 percent by 2060 (from 25.4 million to 46.3 million people.) Without new infrastructure and improved conservation, statewide demands for freshwater will skyrocket 27 percent while available supplies decrease 18 percent. By 2060, our Texas will be short 8.3 million acre-feet of freshwater each year. That equates to almost 3 trillion gallons.
With ongoing drought, dwindling supplies and soaring demand, Texas residents cannot afford to sit by and do nothing. Proposition 6 on the Nov. 5 ballot asks statewide voters to create a bank account in which funding for much-needed water projects can be deposited and from which disbursements will be made. Prop 6 is not a vote to levy a tax, nor is it legislation that propels our state into long-term financial ruin. Proposition 6 is a constitutional amendment that activates a funding mechanism needed to distribute seed money for major water infrastructure construction.
Proposition 6 reads: "The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources."
In 2012, the Texas Water Development Board approved a $53 billion State Water Plan containing more than 500 conservation and water management strategies scientifically proven to develop more than 9 million acre-feet of added water by 2060. Proposed surface water projects include the building and expanding of water treatment plants, assembling new pipelines, stream diversions and constructing off-channel reservoirs like the one currently proposed for nearby Lane City. Groundwater strategies include improving new wells and aquifer management, reusing treated wastewater for irrigation purposes, treatment of brackish water, desalinization and conjunctive use of surface and groundwater. The 2012 State Water Plan mandates conservation in every water usage sector: municipal, agriculture, energy production and manufacturing.
In late May, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 4 and Senate Bill SJR1 thereby setting aside $2 billion from the state Rainy Day Fund to implement our 2012 State Water Plan. With $2 billion set aside, the Rainy Day Fund still contains more than $8.2 billion in reserve, which is its highest balance since its 1988 creation.
Once Nov. 5 voters approve the Proposition 6 funding account, the deposited $2 billion will be coupled with the Texas Water Development Board's existing $6 billion in bonding authority. Together, these two pools of money will be used to make low interest loans totaling more than $27 billion. Municipalities, utility districts and river authorities can tap into this state loan program to finance local water treatment plants, off-channel reservoirs, desalinization units, etc.
Four keys to remember:
1) Texas legislators and water experts have already approved our 2012 State Water Plan, which will create more than 9 million acre-feet of needed freshwater supply.
2) The $2 billion needed to kick-start our State Water Plan has already been legislatively approved and set aside.
3) The Rainy Day Fund still contains more than $8.2 billion in cash reserves and should surpass $11 billion by Fall 2015.
4) Proposition 6 is solely a vote to create the disbursement account needed to launch State Water Plan projects. If we do not fund the plan, then we have no plan. Prop 6 is Texas' only plan.
My fellow citizens, the time to act is now. Yes, 2060 is a long way off, but if we refuse to try to resolve our water issues today, then our children and grandchildren have no hope of solving the problem when it gets to them. Please visit with your friends and neighbors throughout Texas and encourage them to vote and to vote for Proposition 6.
Phillip S. Spenrath is the county judge for Wharton County.