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Infrastructure: Water

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Issue
Although voters approved landmark funding mechanisms for water infrastructure in 2013, TAR will vigilantly monitor any water-related legislation to ensure all Texans have access to a clean, reliable, and affordable water source.

What does this mean for the real estate industry?
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) estimates that present-day annual economic losses from not meeting water-supply needs could result in a reduction in income of approximately $73 billion annually if drought conditions approach the drought of record and as much as $151 billion annually by 2070, with 1.3 million lost jobs.1

Landowners must also be able to rely on secure private-property rights as the state looks to ensure water availability through management and conservation.

The Texas REALTOR® position
Texas REALTORS® support the implementation of the State Water Plan—a nationally acclaimed document that outlines the state’s approach to providing water for the next 50 years. The locally driven plan promotes conservation and outlines infrastructure improvements, while balancing public need, property rights, and water rights.

Legislative outlook
The 85th Texas Legislature will focus on maintaining a sustainable water supply and implementing a State Water Plan.

Historical perspective
Since 1957, the TWDB has been charged with addressing the state’s water needs. With the passage of SB 1 by the 75th Texas Legislature, federal and state organizations, political subdivisions, and regional water-planning groups have assumed increased responsibility for ensuring sufficient water supplies for the state.2

SB 3 (passed in 2007) designated the unique reservoir sites listed in the 2007 Texas State Water Plan and included provisions for protecting environmental flows, conserving water, expediting regional water-planning amendments, promoting voluntary land stewardship, providing lease-back and mitigation protections for landowners impacted by potential reservoirs, designating river and stream segments of unique ecological value for protection, and creating a water supply study commission involving Region C and D water-planning areas.3

Many of the TWDB’s exceptional items, as well as requested and additional funding, were granted during the 2007 session.

The 2017 Texas State Water Plan determined that, in serious drought conditions, Texas would not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises.

The problem is exacerbated by population growth. Demographers estimate the Texas population will increase more than 70% by 2070, from 29.5 million people to 51 million.4 The TWDB estimated that approximately one-third of that projected population will not have enough water during drought conditions if new management strategies and projects are not implemented.5

While funding had been appropriated by the Texas Legislature for various TWDB programs and exceptional, one-time expenses in the past, a dedicated state funding source had never been identified to pay for strategies and projects identified by the TWDB to meet the state’s growing need. The strategies and projects identified in the current water plan are estimated to cost about $63 billion.6

As a result, in the middle of a historic drought in 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature addressed the issue, passing SJR 1, which yielded a constitutional amendment (Proposition 6).

In November 2013, Texas voters approved Proposition 6 by a 3:1 margin. This amendment authorized the transfer of $2 billion to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). These funds enable cities, counties, and water districts to apply for low-interest loans for water projects that align with the state water plan.

In November 2014, TWDB approved rules that open the door for those local entities to begin accessing those dollars.

 

1 The 2017 Texas State Water Plan - Texas Water Development Board

2 81st Legislative Session – Legislative Priorities, Texas Water Development Board, Executive Summary

3 81st Legislative Session – Legislative Priorities, Texas Water Development Board, p. 2

4 According to projections from the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas State Data Center

5 The 2017 Texas State Water Plan - Texas Water Development Board

6 Ibid

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