STATE WATER PLAN ON SCHEDULE
|Senator Troy Fraser chairs the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee, which heard testimony about the implementation of the statewide water plan at a Wednesday meeting.|
(AUSTIN) — The process of implementing the statewide water plan approved last session is continuing on time according to testimony before a Senate committee Wednesday. Texas Water Development Board Chair Carlos Rubinstein told members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee that his agency has met every deadline prescribed by the Legislature and that the State Water Infrastructure Fund of Texas is open for business. He said his agency has already started taking applications for water projects and is preparing to begin the evaluation process in the near future, he said.
Texas water use is expected to greatly increase over the next fifty years due to the growth of population and industry, with TWDB estimating a predicted increase in demand of nearly four million acre-feet of water in 2060. An acre-foot of water is defined as the amount of water needed to cover an area of one acre with water one foot deep and is roughly the amount of water the average American family will use in one year. In order to meet these needs, legislators last session created a statewide water plan and asked voters to fund that plan through a one-time transfer of $2 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund.
Voters overwhelmingly approved that ballot proposition in the November 2013 election. Rubinstein testified that his agency will use that money to leverage more than $27 billion over the next 50 years needed to help fund necessary projects. He said that the TWDB began taking applications for water projects from regional planning authorities beginning November 6, and has received five applications totaling more than half a billion dollars in projected construction costs. Rubinstein said that his agency's models show it will be able to approve up to $800 million in project construction per year for the next ten years.
Applications will be judged based on a set of criteria, which include population served by the project, how adequately a project will meet regional water needs and if it will serve both rural and urban water needs. Rubinstein said he believes that they will receive more applications than they are able to fund in the first year, but conceded that "that's a good problem to have." He said the board will begin approving applications in March of 2015, and begin bond sales to raise revenue in fall of this year.
Committee Vice-Chair Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls praised the agency for its work in implementing the state water plan. "I think you are off to a great start," he said. "I think that this collectively might be one of our proudest moments, because we are looking to the future and absolutely nothing could be more critical."
The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 2 at 2 p.m.