Water in Texas is both a critically important resource for livelihood and a natural occurrence that can pose serious threats.
Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on the Greater Gulf Coast in 2017 brought to light many of our state’s failing water infrastructure needs. Furthermore, Texas has seen unprecedented flooding across all regions in recent years, including West Texas, the Panhandle, and the Hill Country. Beyond flood mitigation, water infrastructure updates are overdue throughout the state and failure to address those issues could negatively impact our water supply.
What does this mean for the real estate industry?
The Texas Water Development Board reminds us that “anywhere it rain in Texas, it can flood,” and estimates that coastal and riverine flooding combined are expected to cause more than $6.87 billion in property losses over the next five years.1
Property owners need assurances that they are as safe as possible from floodwaters. And if disaster does hit, property owners need efficient and affordable insurance and access to contractors and other skilled workers.
Landowners must also be able to rely on secure private-property rights to ensure water availability as the state works on management plans and conservation goals.
A report from the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to document Hurricane Harvey’s effect on Texas and make recommendations for future preparedness, determined that Hurricane Harvey damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 structures.2 Many property owners faced challenges when rebuilding, such as lack of insurance affecting their ability to secure financing, worker shortages, and inconsistent or confusing regulations.2
Texas REALTORS® position
Our association supports the development and implementation of a broad range of flood mitigation technologies, such as flood warning systems, improved levies, and innovation in construction techniques.
In 2021, lawmakers will have significant interest in legislation that will help update our aging infrastructure and do what is possible to mitigate future flood damage.
With that comes the prioritization of clear and consistent water rights, including streamlined permitting and amendment process for water projects that are handled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
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 December 2018, the Texas Water Development Board released its State Flood Assessment for the 86th Texas Legislature. The report proposes strategies to prepare for future floods, such as improved flood modeling and mapping and coordinated watershed-based planning. The report estimates the state needs up to $36 billion for flood mitigation. The report points out that Texas has never conducted a statewide assessment of flood risks and needs.
In November 2014, TWDB approved rules that open the door for those local entities to begin accessing those dollars.
In 2019, the Legislature expanded the role of TWDB in flood planning and financing, including empowering the agency to manage the Flood Infrastructure Fund and create a regional flood planning group that will report their findings in 2023. These and other measures have designated TWDB as the clearinghouse on flood information for the state.
In 2020, TWDB began accepting and approving applications for the Flood Infrastructure Fund, financed by the Economic Stabilization Fund to support local governments projects for flood mitigation, flood control, and drainage projects.
1 State Flood Assessment, Report to the 86th Texas Legislature, Texas Water Development Board, January 2019. https:// texasfloodassessment.org/doc/State-Flood-Assessment-report86th-Legislation.pdf
2 Eye of the Storm, Report of the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas November 2018. https://www.rebuildtexas.today/wpcontent/uploads/sites/52/2018/12/12-11-18-EYE-OF-THE-STORMdigital.pdf