With the November election less than a month away, the need to inform the public on Proposition 6 has reached an all-time high. On Wednesday, a “Let’s Talk About Water” panel, moderated by State Representative Abel Herrero, was held in the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
The panel included State Senator and Senate Natural Resource member Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Special Counsel member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Todd Chenowith, Water Development Director of Corpus Christi Gus Gonzalez, Director of Commercial Leasing & Special Projects for the General Land Office Michael Lemonds, and Robert Mace, Deputy Executive Administrator of Water Science Conservation for the Texas Water Development Board.
The panel discussed the proposed constitutional amendment that would establish a fund for water plan implementation, known as the State Water Implementation Fund (SWIF). This fund would appropriate $2 billion and, in turn, assist in the financing of priority water projects and ensure the availability of adequate water resources, according to legislature. The big question at the panel held on Wednesday was how the fund would directly affect the overall State Water Plan, and ensure supply in its different regions, including Corpus Christi.
“We have a statewide water plan that takes a regional approach. For many years we’ve struggled with how to finance the water plan. That’s the key,” said State Rep. Hinojosa. “The longer we wait, the more it will cost.”
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) states that Texas has seen a significant increase in population over the last ten years, and is expected to continue its growth over the next several decades. This growth is expected to cause shortages in the supply if plans are not put into place; or if the current drought continues, or another drought of significance hits in the future.
Robert Mace, of the TWDB, reminded guests at Wednesday’s panel that Texas has been through a disastrous drought before.
“Back in the 1950s, Texas got a real wake-up call when what is widely considered to be the drought of record hit the state,” said Mace. “We may be in a new drought of record.”
According to Mace, in its current state, the Texas infrastructure is not prepared for such a drought.
“Presently, we think that with a statewide drought of record, we’d be shy some 3-4 million acre-feet of water, and by the time we reach 2060, we’re looking at being shy 8-9 million acre-feet of water,” said Mace.
Gus Gonzalez agrees, stating that for years the theory was that there was a surplus of water from lakes and other outlets in the Coastal Bend. The reality, according to Gonzales, is the exact opposite.
“We’re going to start to look at our strategic plan of implantation of our strategies going forward,” said Gonzalez. “We have to get aggressive; we have to take action. That’s what we’re planning on doing.”
TWDB states that Proposition 6 is one part of a long-term plan to refocus and becoming more prioritized, in which both regional and state planning groups must prioritize projects by viability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. Texas looks to plan fifty years into the future of the state water infrastructure. The State Water Plan would utilize a myriad of strategies to ensure stabilization of supply in Texas, including the reuse of water, conservation, new reservoirs, development of new groundwater supplies, and desalination.
“Fortunately for us as a state, we have a lot of revenue coming in from oil and gas, and have a strong economy where we continue to lead the nation with the creation of new jobs,” said State Rep. Hinojosa. “So now we need to make use of that money and build a fund.”
Hinojosa states that the statewide water plan will cost approximately $53 billion, including $6 billion in Evergreen water bonds that would be utilized to help cities and communities extend waterlines and rebuild water plants. The proposed $2 billion currently on the ballot, according to Hinojosa, would be used to enhance credit and for financing various water projects throughout the state.
Ultimately it is up to the Texas voters to decide the fate of Proposition 6. Voters will decide to pass the amednment, along with eight other proposed constitutional amendments, on Nov. 5.
“For us, quite frankly, water is a priority,” said Hinojosa. “Water is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”