Apr 16, 2024 - News

Texas seeks public input for $1 billion water fund

Illustration of pipes shaped like a dollar sign.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Texans have two more weeks to tell the state how they want it to spend the $1 billion water infrastructure fund approved by voters in November.

Why it matters: The Texas Water Development Board is tasked with determining how to best distribute the money to address the state's water supply issues as climate change and a growing population increase pressure on our water resources.

Catch up quick: Proposition 6 earmarked $1 billion to create the Texas Water Fund for water loss and conservation projects, with a focus on rural communities.

  • As part of the proposition, at least $250 million must be allocated to projects that create new water sources.

The latest: The board has been hosting open meetings hearing public testimony about how to distribute the funding — including in Lubbock last week.

  • Kathleen Ligon, a board staff member, tells Axios they've also solicited online survey feedback focused on three areas: financial assistance for infrastructure projects, new water supply and a public awareness program.
  • She said all have garnered a lot of interest, particularly the public awareness program.

What they're saying: "The first place we should look to invest is water we already have," says Jennifer Walker, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Texas Coast & Water Program.

  • "If we already have this water supply, and we're already treating it and have all the chemicals and the personnel and staff and the energy to move water but we're losing some of it along the way, that is, I would think, our first place to look for water supplies."

Threat level: Texas water systems are losing at least 572,000 acre-feet of water per year because of the deteriorating infrastructure or breaks caused by shifting ground from droughts.

Between the lines: "As we continue to extract more water from rivers, from reservoirs, from groundwater, we impact our future water availability for groundwaters, and then also we impact the downstream environment," Walker says.

  • "We want to make sure that we have enough water leftover to support fish and wildlife habitat."

What we're watching: While $1 billion is the state's largest investment in water infrastructure since 2013, proponents say it still won't meet the enormous demand.

What's next: After public comment closes at the end of the month, the board will finalize the fund guidelines and rules by the fall.

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