Art Daniel at a recent TPWA Meeting
One need not look too far back to know that, despite the drought, the constant media attention, and an ever-increasing population of Texans and businesses affected by low water supplies, Prop. 6 is not a shoe-in. Remember Prop. 2 only last year: a partial funding mechanism which created a $6 billion revolver to help local communities fund their water projects. It passed by a very slender three-percent margin, or less than twenty thousand votes. Almost 50 percent of those who cast ballots actively voted against it.
There are lessons to be learned from the education efforts of two years ago. Most importantly, the public must be educated on the measure before they head to the ballot boxes. While we have partners and allies on this front, our members are trusted ambassadors in their communities. And we need as many of you as possible getting the word out to your friends and neighbors on the need to vote YES on Prop. 6.
Today, more than 97 percent of Texas is under drought conditions. And while it’s difficult to convince people of that fact who have a ready, clean and constant water supply, this is our challenge.
The current drought has been compared in severity to the drought of record, a decade of tribulation from 1947-1957 that devastated Texas. It was severe enough to forever change the urban and rural proportions of the state, as farming and ranching became unsupportable and people congregated in urban centers.
Another thing it did was get the attention of the legislature of the time. After 1957, the legislature made available a lot of money to the water development board to create dams, reservoirs, and access more groundwater. This was to ensure that future Texans would be insulated from the drought’s effects by investing in water infrastructure based on projected need.
This is one of the main reasons it’s difficult for most Texans to understand the effects of the drought, because the forward-planning Legislatures after the late 1950s financed enough infrastructure to protect the state from the harshest effects. Which poses the question: What happens 50 years from now if (or, more appropriately, when) another drought hits? Are we providing sufficient funding for our future needs?
The short answer is no. We are not providing for our infrastructure the way our predecessors did. And our population is rapidly increasing. It should come as little shock that Texas retains more of its birth population than any other state in the country. And approximately 1,400 people move here every day. Between 2010 and 2060, Texas’s population is estimated to increase 82 percent, from 25.4 million to 46.3 million.
Without proper funding, the strain will be significant. Half of Texas’ population will lack an adequate supply of water during times of drought.
Water is not a utility that can wait for a crisis to throw it into center stage for funding appeals. Our needs must be projected, and Texas must keep pace with them for the health of its people as well as its economic climate. The Texas Water Plan, when properly funded, is designed to prevent such catastrophes from occurring.
I ask each of you to put something about Proposition 6 on your Facebook and/or Twitter pages, as well as speaking to your local community. Use some of the talking points from this article, and keep looking for updates in your bulletins and on the AGC Website for materials and other information you can use to impress upon your local communities the importance of this funding initiative. With all of us working our patch of the state, we can help get Prop. 6 passed.
If you have any questions regarding the fundamentals of Prop. 6 or need handouts or literature, contact the Chapter Office at 512.478.4691.