Selected tag(s): TWDB

Your Opportunity to Have a Say in Texas Water Planning

Every 5 years the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) completes a 50-year assessment of Texas' water supply and publishes the State Water Plan and submits it to the legislature.  This is an important planning process for water supply and considerable funding decisions are based on the projections included in this plan.

The 2012 Draft State Water Plan was recently released and TWDB is conducting public meetings to get input on the plan. A formal public hearing will be held in Austin on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. in room 170 of the Stephen F. Austin building.  There is also a formal public hearing in addition to a 30-day public comment period up until Oct. 25.

Expect a more detailed post from us after the October 17 meeting with the highlights of the draft plan and our thoughts and concerns.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, TWDB, Water Planning | Also tagged | Leave a comment

Constitutional Proposition Could Help Ensure Texas Water

This post was written by Sachin Shah, an intern in EDF's Austin Office.

Infrastructure for the Ages

Pat Sullivan, Associated Press

On any given day this summer you can probably find a broken water main like the ones found in Southeast Houston and Central Austin. The water infrastructure in Texas isn't getting any younger, which is why the state feels it needs more money to repair the hundreds of thousands of old water pipes in the state. The American Water Works Association reports that the average amount of leakage from Texas municipal water infrastructure systems is 15 percent and 18 percent which can add up to a lot of water waste.

Water loss from leaking pipes can generate negative effects such as increased cost of water treatment, higher water costs for customers, and property damage, placing even more strain on a state with dire need of water use efficiency practices.

Currently, 78 percent of the state falls within the exceptional drought category, and other 12% isn’t doing well either.  The stress placed on both water supply and water infrastructure calls for the need to repair leaky pipelines and construct additional infrastructure to ensure continuous delivery of water.

This November, the proposed $6 billion constitutional amendment Proposition 2 will provide additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to help restore water infrastructure and other water-related projects to increase use efficiency across the state and save much needed water. At the core of TWDB’s mission is to ensure that Texas is prepared for drought, not only by overseeing and maintaining a state water plan, but also through financing a significant portion of water and wastewater infrastructure for the state.

TWDB Drought Map

Drop in the Bucket

Proposition 2 would allow cities, counties, districts, and river authorities to apply for low-interest loans from the state for various water infrastructure projects. This financial assistance loan program is particularly helpful for municipalities who are unable to access funds from traditional market sources. This isn’t the first time citizens are voting to approve state bonds to provide loans to local governments for water projects in Texas. In 2001, voters authorized TWDB to issue $2 billion in new bonds,  which led to numerous water conservation projects across the state.

Proposition 2 would allow TWDB to issue up to a total of $6 billion in bonds at one time as cities ask for it and reissue those bonds as they are paid off without coming back to voters for permission. Without additional authority to issue state-backed bonds, TWDB would be unable to provide the financing needed to meet the state’s water and wastewater needs. The state also may be unable to provide required funding matches for federal grants, which could mean losing federal funds for Texas water programs.

In reality, $6 billion would be a drop in the bucket for the state. The TWDB estimates there is $231 billion worth of long term infrastructure needs statewide. With water issues in Texas at the front of people's minds in the coming decades, the State sees the need for statewide repairs while the rest of us have seen water bubbling up from the ground more than usual this summer.

Melanie Callahan, interim director of the TWDB, explains that it is beneficial for municipalities to borrow money from the agency rather than trying to raise bonds themselves, because of the strong credit rating of the TWDB. TWDB can issue loans at a lower rate than most of the entities throughout the state and are backed by revenue streams guaranteed by municipalities seeking the funds. As a result, Callahan said that the chance that a municipality might default is very low, even if economic conditions in municipalities become bleaker.

Texas Two-Step: More Growth, Less Supply

In Texas, our biggest challenge in sustaining job growth and economic development is water. The Texas population is expected to double by 2060. This growth is a plus in many ways, but a lack of water could stunt it.

Although we may not agree on all the various assumptions regarding future water use used in TWDB’s projected water models, we can all agree that meeting the needs of all Texans over the next 50 years is going to be a challenge so using it wisely and eliminating waste should be a top priority. While it might be true that Texas population is growing, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that we can’t save more water or use water more intelligently.


Graph from TWDB's Proposed 2012 State Water Plan


As TWDB points out, “economic losses from not creating additional water supply could result in a reduction in income of approximately $11.9 billion annually if current drought conditions continue, and as much as $115.7 billion annually by 2060, with over a million lost jobs.” One way to find additional supply is to use less. Leakage repair and water reuse can help.

 No Blank Checks

Let’s be clear that the TWDB bond loans will only be based on requests for funds from local entities and will not be a handout. In addition, the Bond Review Board, chaired by the Governor and composed of state leadership, oversees issuance of all state bonds, including the TWDB’s bonds.

One of our concerns is whether the bonds will be used for constructing reservoirs.  The proposition funds would be on a first come, first serve application basis to no one really knows exactly which projects will be funded. However, any bonds could be used for reservoir construction would likely require a legislative appropriation for construction because of the price tag.  This system of checks and balances will hopefully ensure the money goes to the best place keeping Texas with water for a long time to come.

Texans will vote on Proposition 2 along with nine other constitutional amendments on November 8, 2011.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Climate Change, TWDB, Water Conservation | Also tagged , | Leave a comment

Follow up to yesterday's post – – Good news "for now"

Guest Post by Ken Kramer – Director of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club

I'm pleased to report that at the Sunset Advisory Commission meeting this morning the Chairman of the Commission, Senator Glenn Hegar, who had initially floated the idea of abolishing the state's Water Conservation Advisory Council, announced after a brief discussion that he was withdrawing his suggestion "for now." This announcement came after the Chairman and other members of the Commission had received numerous communications in opposition to the proposed elimination and after two members of the Sunset Commission, Rep. Larry Taylor and Sen. Robert Nichols, made supportive arguments at this morning's meeting in favor of continuing the Water Conservation Advisory Council.

As a result of this morning's actions the Sunset Advisory Commission report and decisions on the Texas Water Development Board (the primary state agency which the Council advises) will NOT recommend abolition of the Advisory Council. Indeed, ironically the Commission report includes a couple of recommendations which specifically call upon the Water Development Board and/or TCEQ to work with the Advisory Council on specific water conservation activities.

Thus, the Advisory Council is "safe" for the time being. But remember that no person's "life, liberty or property" or valued Advisory Council is safe while the Legislature is in session. The regular session of the Texas Legislature begins January 11. We will need to carefully monitor the Legislature to be on guard for any attempts during the legislative session to eliminate the Council either through a specific bill introduced for that purpose or – more likely – a last minute amendment to a more general bill. Sen. Hegar indicated in withdrawing his proposal at the Sunset Commission meeting that he is still not convinced of the need for the Council, so he might make an effort to abolish the Council during the legislative session. Stay tuned.

In the meantime though, thanks to everyone who contacted members of the Sunset Advisory Commission on behalf of continuing the Water Conservation Advisory Council. Your support and your quick response is appreciated, especially at this busy time of the year, and it paid off!!

Posted in Austin, Sunset, TWDB, Water Conservation, Water Quality | Also tagged , , | 1 Response

What can Texas water expect from legislative session?

It's almost that time again: Legislative session — the 140 days every two years when all Texas laws are passed and water will be a big topic this year.  Of course, no one really knows exactly what laws will be proposed or passed, but general areas of interest can be predicted.  This was a big topic of discussion at a recent legal conference I attended.  Here are some of things we could see.

Water Conservation

Despite the hurricane induced rains in September, we are still in a drought.  If we don't receive generous spring rains we will enter this summer at a deficit.  A lack of rain always revives the important conversation about conservation and how to minimize water usage.  There will likely be bills related to this issue such as requiring water loss audits and minimization of leakage.

Water Planning Process

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has just received regional input for groundwater desired future conditions (DFCs).    Through the process, procedural issues have arisen regarding the calculations, dissemination of information and how to proceed with dispute resolution when two groups want to use the aquifer differently.  Solutions to these will likely be sought through legislation. In addition, the TWDB will be seeking money to fund their water supply projects.


As we have discussed here , both the TWDB and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are up for sunset review.   The two agencies make most of the decisions regarding Texas water quality and quantity so there will be discussions about water governance as part of this process.

Groundwater Ownership

An important case regarding groundwater ownership is still in front of the Texas Supreme Court.  This issue is also being touched on by the DFC process as some groups are concerned that the process limits property rights.  It is unclear whether the legislature will want to move on an issue currently before the court, but it will most certainly be a topic of discussion in the hallways. 

There are lots of things on the legislative agenda this session including redistricting, sunset of several major agencies and voter ID which could keep many individual bills from moving, but we will be watching and keeping you up to date.

Posted in Central Texas, Legislature, Regional Planning Process, Sunset, TCEQ, TWDB, Water Planning | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment