Regional Water Plans/Planning Group Grants

Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) contained comprehensive water legislation enacted by the 75th Texas Legislature in 1997 that led to the current process of regional water planning. This comprehensive water legislation was an outgrowth of increased awareness of the vulnerability of Texas to drought and to the limits of existing water supplies to meet increasing demands as population and water uses increase. The current set of regional water plan projections expect the state's population to increase from about 25 million in 2010 to slightly more than 46 million by the year 2060.

With passage of SB 1, the Legislature established a "bottom up" water planning process designed to ensure that the water needs of all Texans are met as Texas entered the 21st century. The regional water planning process allows individuals representing at least 12 interest groups to serve as members of Regional Water Planning Groups (RWPG) to prepare regional water plans for their respective areas. These plans make recommendations for strategies to meet future water supply needs, conserve water supplies, and respond to future droughts in the planning areas.

What are the steps in preparing a regional water plan?

The planning process begins with the collection and analyses of many types of information related to water demands and supplies. Each planning group is responsible for deciding how future water needs in their respective planning area may be met within the 50-year planning horizon. Each regional water plan includes information about water supplies and demands, water quality problems affecting water supply, and social and economic characteristics of the region. The plans also identify water supply threats to agriculture and natural resources. Information concerning current preparations for drought and the status of other water plans in the region will be reviewed and presented, as appropriate.

The following tasks are common to each regional water plan:

  • Determine water demands
  • Determine water supplies available for use during drought-of-record conditions
  • Determine where and when there is a surplus of water supply or a need for additional supplies
  • Determine social and economic impact of not meeting needs
  • Identify ecologically unique streams and rivers
  • Identify unique sites for reservoir construction
  • Coordinate with neighboring regions concerning mutual interests and shared resources
  • Propose regulatory, administrative or legislative recommendations to improve water resource management in the state.
  • Develop a plan that includes:
    • Specific water management strategies, including conservation, to meet future needs
    • Identified needs with no feasible solutions
    • Alternative strategies if desired by the planning group

What are the benefits of participating in developing a regional water plan?

The opportunity to identify regional solutions to water supply problems with resulting lower water supply costs, including the ability to access low-interest TWDB loans for financing water supply projects.

What does a regional water plan not do?

A regional water plan does not change existing water law, existing water rights or contracts, and does not force a water management strategy on an entity.

Application for Funding

  • The TWDB Executive Administrator (EA) publishes notice in the Texas Register advising RWPGs that funds are available and that applications will be accepted to develop regional water plans.
  • RWPGs provide a written designation to the EA naming the political subdivision that is authorized to apply for grant funds on behalf of the group, and ensure that the designated political subdivision has the legal authority to conduct the procurement and enter into the contracts necessary for regional water planning.
  • RWPGs provide notice that an application for funding is being submitted by the eligible applicant in accordance with 31 TAC §357.21(d) relating to Notice & Public Participation.

Application Evaluation Criteria:

  1. degree to which proposed planning does not duplicate previous or ongoing planning;
  2. project organization and budget;
  3. scope of work of project;
  4. eligibility of tasks for funding under 31 TAC §355.92
  5. the relative need of the political subdivision for the money based upon an assessment of the necessary scope of work and cost to develop the regional water plan as compared to statewide needs for development of all regional water plans;
  6. the legal authority of the political subdivision to participate in the development and implementation of a regional water plan; and
  7. the degree to which regional water planning by the political subdivision will address the water supply needs in the regional water planning area.

Use of Funds and Limitations of Funding

The Board has sole discretion in determining which activities are necessary for the development or revision of a regional water plan. However, no funds will be provided for the following:

  1. activities for which the Board determines existing information or data is sufficient for the planning effort including:
    • detailed evaluations of cost of water management strategies where recent information for planning is available to evaluate the cost associated with the strategy;
    • evaluations of groundwater resources for which a desired future condition has been submitted to the Board pursuant to Texas Water Code §36.108(d) (relating to Joint Planning in a Management Area);
    • evaluations of groundwater resources for which current information is available from the Board or other entity sufficient for evaluation of the resource;
    • determination of water savings resulting from standard conservation practices for which current information is available from the Board;
    • revision of the adopted state population and demand projections;
    • revision of state environmental planning criteria for new surface water supply projects; and
    • collection of data describing groundwater or surface water resources where information for evaluation of the resource is currently available;
  2. activities directly related to the preparation of applications for state or federal permits or other approvals, activities associated with administrative or legal proceedings by regulatory agencies, and preparation of engineering plans and specifications;
  3. activities related to planning for individual system facility needs other than identification of those facilities necessary to transport water from the source of supply to a regional water treatment plant or to a local distribution system;
  4. costs associated with administration of the plan's development, including but not limited to: (a) compensation for the time or expenses of planning group members' service on or for the group; (b) costs of administering the planning groups; (c) costs of public meetings, including time and expenses for attendance at such meetings (public notice costs are eligible); (d) costs for training; (e) costs of reviewing products developed due to this grant; and, (f) costs of administering the regional water planning grant and associated contracts; and,
  5. analyses of benefits and costs of water management strategies unless the water management strategy requires a state or federal permit and the planning group has completed the analysis required by §357.7(a)(7-8) of this title (relating to Identification and Evaluation of Potentially Feasible Water Management Strategies), and the planning group demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Executive Administrator that these analyses are needed to determine the selection of the water management strategy.

Funding Administrative Costs

The following administrative costs are eligible for funding if the planning group or its chairperson certifies, during a public meeting, that the expenses are eligible for reimbursement and are correct and necessary: (1) travel expenses, as authorized by the General Appropriations Act, for planning group voting members who certify that they are not eligible for reimbursement from their employer; travel expenses are available only for attendance at a posted meeting of the planning group unless the travel is specifically authorized by the TWDB Executive Administrator; (2) costs associated with providing translators and accommodations for persons with disabilities for public meetings when required by law or deemed necessary by the planning group and certified by the chairperson; (3) direct costs, not including personnel costs, for placing public notices in newspapers for the legally required public hearings and of providing copies of information for the public and for members of the planning groups as needed for the efficient performance of planning work; and (4) the cost of postage for mailing notices of public hearings and other actions to persons and entities listed in Chapter 357 of this title (relating to Regional Water Planning).

Subcontracting

A planning group through the eligible applicant's contractor or subcontractor may obtain professional services, including the services of a planner, land surveyor, licensed engineer, or attorney, for development or revision of a regional water plan only if such services are procured on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications through a request for qualifications process in accordance with Chapter 2254 of the Texas Government Code.

Board Consideration of Applications; Contracts

  1. The EA shall submit a summary of applications with recommendations for approval to the Board for consideration at a regularly scheduled public meeting of the Board. The EA shall notify the applicant and other persons who have provided comments of the time and place of such meeting. The Board agenda is published on the Web site at www.twdb.texas.gov.
  2. Board Review. The Board has discretion to approve, disapprove, amend, or continue consideration of an application. If the Board approves the application, then the eligible applicant will be notified of the amount of funds available and about the deadline for executing a contract with the Board. If the applicant does not enter into a contract by the specified deadline, then the Board's approval expires and no funds will be provided. The applicant may request an extension of time for good cause shown prior to the contract execution deadline.
  3. A contract for regional planning funds shall include:
    • a detailed statement of the purpose for which the money is to be used;
    • the total amount of money to be paid from the research and planning fund under the contract;
    • the time for completion; and
    • any other terms and conditions required by the EA or agreed to by the contracting parties.

Where Can I Get Additional Information?

If you have questions regarding preparation of an application, please contact:

Temple McKinnon
Texas Water Development Board
Regional Water Planning Group Grants
1700 North Congress Avenue
P.O. Box 78711-3231
Telephone: (512) 475-2057
FAX: (512) 936-0889
Email: temple.mckinnon@twdb.texas.gov

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