Working together for the greater good May 2018

At the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), we look forward to receiving applications for project funding—it means water providers are taking action to meet the water and wastewater needs in their communities. We know from decades of supporting communities' project planning and implementation efforts that this is no easy task. Sometimes it makes sense for communities to look beyond their own borders to solve their water challenges by collaborating with other nearby communities. Types and structures of partnerships may vary, but the end goal is the same: to provide affordable, reliable water and wastewater services to Texans now and in the future.

The regional water planning process can help facilitate partnerships between cities by identifying regional needs. For example, the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority was formed when the 2007 State Water Plan identified a water supply shortage that would affect Central Texas residents of the cities of Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock. In 2008, the TWDB committed $182 million through the Water Development Fund to the Authority for the first phase of a water supply project to meet the growing water demands of the area. The project entails constructing a regional water system to treat and deliver water from Lake Travis to the three cities. In 2017, the TWDB approved a $16,995,000 low-interest loan from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program* to complete the next step of the project, which will expand the water treatment plant capacity from 17 million gallons per day to 30 million gallons per day.

The Authority reports that the regional project makes sense for its member cities because it's more cost efficient (the Authority could achieve $2.3 million in savings through SWIFT). It also provides a solid foundation for local businesses and the well-being of residents in surrounding communities.

Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) and Dallas Water Utilities serve a combined 4 million residents but face potential water supply shortages in the next several decades. To address regional growth and the increased water demand it will bring, the two providers have been working for several years on a project known as the Integrated Pipeline Project. This integrated water delivery transmission system will connect Lake Palestine to Lake Benbrook with connections to Cedar Creek Reservoir and Richland-Chambers Reservoir integrating the TRWD's existing pipeline, creating flexibility in delivery and quicker response to fluctuating customer water demands.

In the first cycle of SWIFT funding in 2015, the TWDB approved $440 million in financial assistance to the TRWD to finance the acquisition, design, and construction of segments of the Integrated Pipeline Project. When complete, the project will provide an additional 350 million gallons per day to the two North Texas providers, enabling them to meet growing water demands of their residents. By using the SWIFT program, the TRWD could save nearly $60 million over the life of the loan.

Another large regional project that's currently underway is in the Houston area and includes the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project, the Northeast Water Purification Plant expansion, and various associated pipelines. TWDB financial assistance to the Coastal Water Authority has helped fund the Luce Bayou project since 2008 and will help make possible the transfer of water from the Trinity River to Lake Houston. Upon completion of the plant expansion, the water will then be treated at the Northeast Water Purification Plant, which is a partnership between the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, City of Houston, North Fort Bend Water Authority, North Harris County Regional Water Authority, and West Harris County Regional Water Authority. From the treatment plant, the water will be distributed to the participants to serve their customers. The total TWDB assistance approved for all partners, including the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer, is more than $3 billion over the next decade.

Regionalization can also benefit smaller and rural communities, as is the case in Eastland County where several cities and water supply corporations depend on each other as part of a regional water system. Eastland County Water Supply District No. 1 treats water for the cities of Eastland and Ranger. The City of Eastland provides water to the Olden Water Supply Corporation, City of Carbon, and Westbound Water Supply Corporation (the latter two entities provide water to other water supply corporations downstream). The City of Ranger provides water to the Morton Valley Water Supply Corporation and Staff Water Supply Corporation – Lacasa Area.

Over the years, the TWDB has provided individual financial assistance to Eastland County Water Supply District No. 1 and the cities of Eastland, Ranger, Carbon, and—most recently in February—Morton Valley Water Supply Corporation. The cities each maintain their respective system components, which is crucial because any issues or delays in repairs or improvements can affect more than their own residents if they provide water to customers downstream.

Working together for specialized projects and adequate water supply enables water providers to accomplish more than they may be able to individually. In a state as big as Texas, with a shared interest in water efficiency and reliability, imagine what the outcome could be if more regional partnerships were formed!

*The SWIFT program includes two funds, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). Revenue bonds for the program are issued through SWIRFT.

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