The State of Water January 2015

In January of 1915, Alexander Graham Bell made the first recorded transcontinential telephone call from New York to San Francisco. He had already invented the telephone, but sought to transform the way people communicated even more. As was the case 100 years ago, the month of January tends to brim with resolutions and commitments to improvements, innovations, and ideas that will make the world a better place.

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is seeking to make advancements in water that will benefit Texans and set the standard for the sustainable and affordable development of water throughout the world. And just as Alexander Graham Bell significantly improved his own invention, the TWDB is transforming itself from the agency it was when created in 1957.

In 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 4 and called for a constitutional amendment that would facilitate the investment of $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for water projects across the state. After Texas voters overwhelmingly approved that amendment, the TWDB started establishing the framework for the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT. In 2014, the TWDB embarked on an aggressive strategy to bring sustainable and affordable water to Texans through this unprecedented funding opportunity.

With this fund, the TWDB will provide the financial assistance needed for communities to conserve and develop enough water during times of drought. The TWDB has provided more than $15 billion in financial assistance for water projects through other funding programs since 1957. SWIFT will build on that history by funding approximately $800 million in water projects every year for the next 10 years (an estimated $27 billion in the next 50 years). The TWDB will also continue its support of Texas’ agricultural and conservation needs by dedicating at least 10 percent of these funds to rural and agricultural projects and 20 percent to conservation and reuse projects.

One of the most significant enhancements to the TWDB has been the interactive work of its three, full-time Board Members. Throughout the year, Chairman Carlos Rubinstein and Board Members Bech Bruun and Kathleen Jackson have traveled the state in every direction and back again to visit and learn from Texans who know firsthand the water needs of their communities.

Now, because of the hard work and dedication of the many stakeholders, liaisons from statewide regional water planning groups, and TWDB Board Members and staff, the implementation of SWIFT is four months ahead of schedule. As a result, it is expected that complete applications will be accepted in the spring (abridged applications for funding prioritization are due by February 3) and funds will be disbursed by the fall.

As SWIFT carries out its first round of funding this year, the TWDB will continue its commitment to science, planning, education, and the agency’s other funding programs. With 44 percent of the state still in moderate to exceptional drought (as of 12/30/14 per the U.S. Drought Monitor) and the state’s population expanding by almost 1,000 people per day, the TWDB’s water planning, data collection, and financial and technical assistance services to the citizens of Texas are as important as ever.

Texas will often be in a state of drought. In the past 100 years there has been a drought in almost every decade, but the state of water is strong. Texas is home to the most innovative solutions and proficient planners in the world. With the support of the people of Texas, the lone star state is at the forefront of drought-proofing possibilities, and on the horizon is a prosperous future for all Texans.

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