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VOTERS TO DECIDE: SHOULD RAINY DAY FUND PAY FOR TEXAS WATER SUPPLY PROJECTS?

On November 5, Texas voters will go to the polls to decide on an amendment to the state constitution that would allow funds to be dedicated for use from the state’s Economic Stabilization, or “rainy day fund” to help pay for water supply projects outlined in the State Water Plan. The Texas Legislature called for the amendment vote when they passed Senate Joint Resolution 1 this spring. The amendment will appear on the November ballot as “Proposition 6.” If passed by voters, the amendment would earmark $2 billion toward implementing the Texas State Water Plan.

Developed in 2012, the current State Water Plan is an attempt to address future water supply needs for a state population that is expected to grow from 25 million to 46 million over the next 50 years. At the same time, Texas’ existing water supplies are expected to shrink by about 10 percent.

Using a bottom-up approach, regional water planning groups across the state developed lists of projects that would help meet water needs in their areas. These proposals include building infrastructure such as new reservoirs and pipelines, improving conservation and water reuse efforts and other elements.

The total cost of the State Water Plan is about $53 billion. Up to now, while State Water Plans have been updated multiple times over the years, they have never received substantial funding to implement projects. By sending Proposition 6 to the voters, the legislature is allowing voters to decide if the Rainy Day fund should be used.

If approved by Texas voters, the constitutional amendment would create two constitutionally dedicated water funds: the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund of Texas (SWIRFT). These funds would act as “seed money” for loans to implement water plan projects. As the loans are paid back, the replenished pool of money could be used to provide additional funding for other future projects.

Building the infrastructure and other projects to ensure an adequate water supply for future Texans is essential, but to do so costs money. This November 5, Texas voters have a chance to weigh in on whether or not to provide a long-term funding source to implement the State Water Plan.