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Texas Makes Crucial Water Investment, but Voters Must Sign Off

State lawmakers, in a surge of concern over Texas’ crumbling water infrastructure, passed a series of bills that will pump more than $2 billion into projects to improve the water supply and prevent flooding.

According to one estimate, Texas must spend $150 billion in the next 50 years to ensure enough clean water is available for its population. That’s $3 billion per year — a conservative projection of the investments the state needs to make to protect its water supply, according to the think tank Texas 2036.

Although this new funding is ultimately a drop in the bucket, it represents a major win for Texans. About $1 billion in funds for the water supply are tied to a constitutional amendment that is expected to go to voters in November. Voters should approve and create the Texas Water Fund so that this money can be disbursed.

The Texas Water Fund would be an umbrella fund that could transfer money to other funding pools such as the New Water Supply for Texas Fund, which could launch projects to get more water flowing in the state.

The funding package also includes a separate $125 million for water infrastructure projects that would allow Texas to tap into matching federal funding through the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.

Jeremy Mazur, a senior policy adviser on water for Texas 2036, explained that this funding bucket would provide assistance to small, rural and underserved communities that are often forgotten in infrastructure planning. He said some of these towns are unable to improve their infrastructure because they lack the money or the knowledge on how to navigate assistance programs.

Heavy rainfall last summer reminded Texans why flood prevention and planning is so urgent. Lawmakers allocated about $625 million for the improvement of flood and drainage infrastructure. An additional $550 million was set aside for coastal barrier projects, according to reporting by the Texas Tribune.

Based on census figures, six of the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities in this country are in Texas. The state is continuing to experience explosive growth, and a sustained stream of funding is necessary to guarantee water for our population for decades to come.

The Legislature’s bipartisan support for the water bills was an easy move in a surplus year. Our state leaders, however, must commit to keep this investment going or risk a water crisis down the road.

Source: The Dallas Morning News