AUSTIN — In the midst of a prolonged statewide drought that has created unprecedented awareness of the importance of water in the lives of Texans, Rep. Allan Ritter (R-Nederland), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, filed two bills designed to help ensure Texas will meet its future water needs.
House Bills 4 and 11 would make a one-time allocation of $2 billion from the state's Economic Stabilization Fund, often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund, to capitalize a new, dedicated revolving fund for use in financing water projects in the State Water Plan. The legislation would also lay the groundwork for that fund's management and operation.
“Our projections show that $2 billion would fully implement the State Water Plan as it exists today,” said Ritter. “With that one-time capital investment, we could provide adequate, meaningful funding to the plan and achieve the state’s goals of supporting local entities in the implementation of projects.”
"It is vital for the future of Texas that a dedicated source of revenue be established for funding the State Water Plan," Ritter added. "Our economy depends on it, our communities depend on it, and ultimately, our daily lives depend on it."
House Speaker Joe Straus has identified water among the most important priorities of the 83rd Legislature. He commended Ritter for his leadership and years of work to raise awareness of the issue.
"Members of the Texas House understand the importance of water to business, agriculture and all Texans," Straus said. "I am confident that the House will take bold, substantial action to address our water needs this session, and the filing of these bills formally begins that process."
In addition to traditional water supply projects, the bills would set aside at least 20 percent of the new revolving fund for conservation and reuse efforts. The bills would also allow funds to be used across the various water-financing programs offered by the Water Development Board to ensure that as the state's water demands and plans change, the funding support can adapt.
The State Water Plan is the result of a regional, "bottom-up" planning process comprised of local stakeholders representing a variety of interests, such as agriculture, industry, the environment, municipalities, water districts and river authorities. The 16 regional groups evaluate their needs over the next 50 years and recommend strategies and projects to meet that demand. Those groups then submit their regional plans to the state, and they are combined every five years to create the State Water Plan.