Hinojosa: The State of Texas is making water supply and conservation a top priority

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MCALLEN, Texas – At a Rio Grande Valley Partnership legislative appreciation reception last month, state Rep. Terry Canales spoke about the need for local leaders to focus on the region’s water supply.

The Edinburg Democrat said he would be making the issue his top priority going forward and had instructed staff to research the matter thoroughly.

Canales was applauded for his comments and won praise from one of the Valley’s leading experts on the subject, former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.

After the legislative reception had ended, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian that the state of Texas is taking the supply of water very seriously. He said he would get his staff to provide the Guardian with evidence of the state’s commitment to the issue. 

“We are taking the issue of water very seriously at the state level. It is a priority for the state,” Hinojosa said.

Soon enough, Hinojosa’s staff provided the Guardian with examples of the work being done at the state level, including background documents. Here are some of the key talking points provided by Hinojosa’s office:

“According to the 2022 State Water Plan, the population of Texas is projected to increase 73 percent between 2020 and 2070, from 29.7 million to 51.5 million. 

“The report states, ‘Because the existing water supply is not enough to meet the future demand for water during times of drought, Texas would need 6.9 million acre-feet of additional water supplies, including in the form of water savings through conservation, to meet the demand for water in 2070.’

“This past regular session, the Legislature passed and the voters approved Proposition 6 for the Texas Water Fund. This authorized an initial investment of $1 billion, which will go towards financing new water supply projects and repairs of existing aging water infrastructure.

“The Texas Water Fund will provide funding for loans and grants that help communities across the state implement water supply and wastewater projects through existing TWDB programs. It will also support the newly created New Water Supply for Texas Fund, which is designed to implement innovative water supply strategies such as marine and brackish water desalination; oil and gas produced water treatment projects; and aquifer storage and recovery projects. Attached is the latest FAQ from the Water Development Board on Prop 6.”

Hinojosa’s staff also provided the following presentations from the Texas Water Development Board:

  • State Water Implementation Fund for Texas
    • The TWDB has committed more than $9 billion for dozens of state water plan projects in Texas through the SWIFT program, resulting in a savings of almost $1.2 billion for Texas water providers since the first funding cycle in 2015.
    • Projects funded through SWIFT—transmission pipelines, major reservoirs, aquifer storage and recovery, canal linings, capacity expansions, groundwater wells, leak detection systems, water meter replacements, and wastewater reuse
  • Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund
    • The first state flood plan will be adopted by September 1, 2024.
    • As of April 2022, the TWDB has committed more than $445 million for 131 projects through the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) program, including early warning systems, watershed studies, match for federal programs, and a range of flood control and mitigation strategies.

Hinojosa said there has been significant legislation and funding from the Legislature to the Texas Water Development Board. He gave these examples:

  • 2011 – SB 660 and SJR 4 – Constitutional amendment approved by the voters in November 2011 authorizing TWDB to issue GO bonds for one or more accounts of the Texas Water Development Fund II such that the aggregate amount of bonds issued for the fund does not exceed $6 billion outstanding at any one time. Known as “Evergreen” Constitutional Debt Authority.
  • 2013 – $2 billion one-time appropriation from the Economic Stabilization Fund for a transfer to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas to finance projects in the State Water Plan.
  • 2019 – SB 500 – $685 million for the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund for FEMA projects and flood planning; $793 million to the Flood Infrastructure Fund for flood projects.
  • 2021 – HB 2 – $100.4 million for Flood Infrastructure Fund
  • 2023 – $1 billion for Texas Water Fund; $625 million for the Flood Infrastructure Fund

“While over the past ten years the Legislature has made progress on water issues due to significant investments, more will be needed to meet future demand,” Hinojosa’s staff explained.

Hinojosa’s staff also pointed to three fact sheets that provide more information on the state’s water policies. Here is the link to all three PDFs.

RGV Partnership perspective

Daniel Silva, CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, told the Guardian that Rep. Canales’ comments had struck a chord with his group. As a result, Silva said, the Partnership would be utilizing an existing subcommittee to look at the long-term supply of water for the region.  

“Definitely, we’re going to be looking at any industry that we see a need or an emerging value in. And I know water was talked about during our legislative appreciation reception. So, we’re going to highlight it. We have an infrastructure subcommittee and I think it would fit into that category,” Silva said.

It was pointed out that the RGVP’s big economic development summit, held in Edinburg last August – an event headlined by Gov. Greg Abbott – did not mention the region’s longterm water supply issues. Silva said this would not happen next time.

“I thank Rep. Canales for highlighting this issue,” Silva said.

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