Two-Stepping Across Texas! November 2016
Texas is a big state with diverse water needs, and the TWDB has the resources to serve communities no matter their situation. We're dedicated to helping provide water for all of Texas—and that includes rural Texas, which makes up 12 percent of our population (see reference). Even small towns can have big water needs!
The TWDB is two-stepping our way across Texas to ensure adequate water supply and infrastructure for Texans. Toe tapping to the needs of communities large and small, our two-step commitment is made up of—you guessed it—two steps: outreach and financial assistance.
Here at the TWDB, outreach entails more than phone calls and emails. We do plenty of that, but what our Regional Water Project Development teams, Board members, and staff really enjoy is getting out in the communities we serve and meeting with current and potential customers. One of the ways we do that is through Financial Assistance Workshops. Held throughout the year at varying locations around the state, the workshops provide opportunities for communities in that area to meet their TWDB regional team and discuss current and future project needs. Our last scheduled workshop in calendar year 2016 will be held on December 6 in McAllen, but we continue to update our events calendar regularly and are already confirming workshops in 2017.
For communities in the High Plains and Panhandle regions, we are hosting a session in Lubbock on December 7, 2016, that will focus on rural and agricultural water issues. Presentation topics will include our financial assistance programs available to agricultural and rural communities, examples of rural cities that have experienced success by working with the TWDB for their water-related projects, and conversations about what we can be doing to continue meeting the needs of rural Texas. Please join us, our Board members, and special guests including Sen. Charles Perry of District 28 for this important discussion.
In addition to TWDB regional teams that each focus on a specific area of the state, we have four regional outreach field staff that are available to meet with entities in their areas. They are located in Harlingen, Houston, Lubbock, and Austin. For their contact info, call us at (512) 463-0991 or email Financial_Assistance@twdb.texas.gov.
Through our ongoing outreach efforts, TWDB staff is able to inform communities and entities about what we can do for them and the benefits of financing water-related projects through us. We are proud to offer low-interest loans and other cost-effective, flexible benefits such as long-term financing to help keep payments low, multi-year commitments that enable entities to fund projects in stages, and principal forgiveness (i.e., grants).
In the last 10 years, the TWDB has made nearly 1,100 commitments for almost $12 billion dollars through the agency's programs. More than half of these funding commitments were for entities with populations less than 10,000, and approximately 200 were for entities with less than 50,000 in population.
One program used frequently by rural communities is the TWDB's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The DWSRF offers below-market loans and extended terms for a wide range of water projects that facilitate compliance with drinking water standards. Within the DWSRF, the Urgent Need reserve was created in 2014 to address unforeseen emergency situations. To address the difficulty many very small systems have in securing financial assistance, the Very Small Systems reserve was also established. Both reserves offer principal forgiveness to help provide affordable solutions to water supply systems.
The TWDB has made more than 200 DWSRF commitments totaling nearly $300 million to rural entities in the last 10 years. One such project was for principal forgiveness in the amount of $240,281 to San Pedro Estates Water, Limited Liability Corporation in Val Verde County. San Pedro is a very small community serving approximately 58 homes and was in urgent need of funding for the design and construction of a new water well to bring an additional water source to the San Pedro Canyon Estates. The project was completed in summer 2016.
Lou Nyman, owner of San Pedro Estates Water, LLC, shared her appreciation at the project's completion: "I sincerely thank the Texas Water Development Board Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Program for preserving a water supply to our customers. This project is a blessing to San Pedro Canyon Subdivision-Upper and a true miracle that never ceases!"
Another financing program available to rural communities is the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT). To be eligible for SWIFT financing, the entity's project must be included in the state water plan. In the first two cycles of SWIFT, $45 million was committed to rural entities with 10,000 or less in population and another $967 million to communities with populations between 10,000 and 100,000. The third funding cycle will begin this winter.
The City of Marfa was one of 30 projects approved in the first cycle of SWIFT funding in 2015. Marfa operates two water wells to supply the demand of the entire city. One of the wells that has been in operation for 80 years became inoperable and unrepairable. With the $705,000 SWIFT loan, the city will be able to plan, design, and construct a new water well to ensure adequate water supply to meet the city's water demands. By using SWIFT, the city could save almost $89,000 over the life of the loan.
These are just a few examples of the funding programs available at the TWDB. Our staff is ready and willing to two-step over and work with communities of all sizes and situations to determine financial options that will meet immediate and long-term needs. Rural Texas is important to all of Texas, and we hope communities will reach out to begin the conversation. We look forward to partnering!
Challenges, solutions, and successes of rural project implementation and financial assistance are two topics we'll be focusing on at the Water for Texas 2017 conference. Everyone with an interest in Texas water is invited to attend. The conference will be held January 23–25, 2017, in Austin, and will offer workshops, panels, keynote speakers, and networking. Learn more at Water for Texas Conference 2017.