A Confluence of Innovative Thinking February 2017
When Texans band together with a shared purpose, real opportunity presents itself to create impactful change. And there’s no time like the present to begin tackling current water challenges and planning for the future. Armed with the 2017 State Water Plan in our back pockets, months of coordination behind us, and a bright outlook on what we can accomplish together, the TWDB welcomed more than 550 attendees, speakers, and sponsors to Austin for the Water for Texas 2017 conference held Jan. 23–25. The conference theme, "Innovation at Work," was a central message in panels, presentations, demonstrations, and keynote remarks reminding everyone what Texans are capable of achieving.
The TWDB carefully chose topics that appealed to all attendees, which included industry professionals, students, legislative representatives, and the general public. Sessions fell within the tracks of Emergency Management and Flood; Science, Technology, and Conservation; Planning and Infrastructure Financing; and Policy and Law. Many of the sessions were panels moderated by TWDB Board members or staff and featured well-known industry experts and representatives of cities and other entities that discussed topics such as flood, desalination, conservation, alternative project delivery, Gulf Coast restoration, groundwater, and more.
TWDB staff also hosted workshops and demonstrations highlighting financial assistance programs and technology available through the agency. Between sessions, attendees visited exhibit booths and the Interactive Room hosted by the TWDB's Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS).
General sessions and meals brought all attendees together for keynote remarks by elected officials and other motivational speakers. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke at the Jan. 24 luncheon about the Texas economy—the tenth largest in the world—and the need for water conservation education and investments in water infrastructure to meet the demands of a state growing by 1,200 people a day. And in front of a packed room, a legislative panel moderated by Texas Tribune Co-Founder Evan Smith and featuring Senator Charles Perry, Representative Eddie Lucio III, and Representative Lyle Larson discussed water policy challenges and solutions and the need for innovation.
That evening during the Water for Texas Awards Banquet, three projects that exemplify innovative thinking in the areas of conservation, education, and technology were honored as the winners of the first-ever Innovative Water Supply Awards. The City of Lago Vista was named the winner of the Conservation category; Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s Water University received the award in the Education category; and Enviro Water Minerals and NorrisLeal's El Paso Full Recovery Desalination Project was named the winner in the Technology category.
Also recognized was the Leadership Montgomery County Class of 2014, recipient of the All-Star Rain Catcher Award for its Harvesting the Rain Project. The All-Star Rain Catcher Award celebrates 10 years of the TWDB's Rain Catcher rainwater harvesting competition and recognition program. Congratulations and thanks to the forward thinking, results-driven award winners for their outstanding achievements!
To close out the evening, Roy Spence, co-founder and chairman of the creative agency GSD&M and co-founder and CEO of the Purpose Institute, delivered a powerful presentation about purpose. He said to the audience, "If you don’t let the people of Texas know what's at stake [regarding diminishing water supplies and growing demands], you're cheating them out of an opportunity to make a better Texas." He encouraged everyone to share his personal mantra to "do good and be happy," and said, "Every day that you work for water, you're doing good."
International Space Station Commander Dr. Leroy Chiao kicked off the second day with a keynote about the importance of operational excellence, decision making, and the three C's (collaboration, curiosity, and creativity) when moving a mission forward. We may not be planning space travel, but our shared mission to ensure sufficient water for Texas is just as—if not more—important to our state and country.
And at lunch, Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick left attendees more informed about the state's economic and population growth and how water fits into the state budget. Thanking the TWDB and water organizations, he said, "Everything we're doing is to ensure a strong Texas...Everything else is important, but water is vital to us."
Thanks to the active participation by attendees, expert panelists and speakers, and sponsors, the event was an overwhelming success. Ensuring sufficient water supply for our future requires thoughtful planning and implementing of innovative solutions throughout the state, and Water for Texas 2017 provided all participants with a tremendous opportunity to gain new ideas, tools, and insights they can put to use in their cities and regions for the good of Texas.