As you may have seen, Texans took historic action on November 5 when they overwhelmingly approved Proposition 6, the state constitutional amendment to create new funding for water projects in regional water plans (the building blocks for the state water plan). With passage of Prop 6, $2 billion will be transferred from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to the new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), and several provisions in HB 4, companion legislation passed by the Legislature earlier this year, will take effect.
Now the real work begins. Successful implementation of Prop 6 and HB 4 is not automatic. Passing legislation is one thing, but ensuring that the goals of new legislation are truly met requires long-term engagement by many stakeholders. Decisions made by the 16 regional water planning groups and the Texas Water Development Board in interpreting and administering Prop 6 and HB 4 will determine whether these new laws improve regional water plans, enhance the use of conservation to meet anticipated water demands, provide sufficient funds to pursue necessary and responsible water projects, and assure dependable water supplies for both people and the environment.
What can you do?
The key to successful application of Proposition 6 money depends on public involvement. The most effective way to ensure this money is put to good use if for all Texans interested in water to take the plunge and become engaged in regional water planning efforts. Public involvement often leads to good results. For example, a number of ill-conceived reservoirs in the planning region that includes Houston were deleted from the regional plan after an outpouring of public opposition. But Texans must move beyond killing irresponsible projects and work to advance conservation and more effective drought response.
Now is the time for Texans to focus on regional water planning. The regional water planning groups are currently revising their plans (required every 5 years), first assessing where current water supplies may not meet anticipated water demands over the 50-year planning horizon. The groups will then determine how to meet any water deficits – through enhanced water conservation, infrastructure, or other means. This is where there is a real opportunity. Conservation options should be prioritized over large infrastructure projects. Conservation is usually much less expensive and using existing water resources more efficiently is the most reliable water supply alternative.
If you care about whether there will be enough water for you and your children and grandchildren, where that water will come from, and how to preserve our state’s natural heritage while sustaining a dependable water supply, learn about the regional planning group in your area and take advantage of the opportunities provided for public participation. You will find information about regional water planning. We will keep working to ensure that the potential of Prop 6 and HB 4 to promote a conservation ethic and fiscally responsible water planning is achieved. We invite you to take the plunge and join us. Stay tuned for more information about how to get involved and implementation updates.