Water for Texas 2017: Innovation at Work

Written by  Bech Bruun, Chairman, Texas Water Development Board

water for texas

Creating and conserving Texas’ water supply is as important now as ever, and all Texans have a hand in ensuring its future availability: contractors employed to build and maintain water infrastructure, water providers and utilities that supply clean water to cities, city officials and planners that manage this resource for their area, and the citizens and businesses that rely upon it.

According to the 2017 State Water Plan, water demand in Texas is projected to increase 17 percent by the year 2070 from 18.4 million acre-feet per year in 2020 to 21.6 million acre-feet per year in 2070. Unfortunately, our water supplies are decreasing, resulting in a potential water shortage in the event of a drought within the next 50 years. When it comes to addressing the state’s growing water demands, entities of all sizes, both public and private, have turned to innovative ideas and solutions to help.

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) recognizes the importance of innovation as we look for ways to develop and conserve our state’s water supply. That’s why “Innovation at Work” was an obvious choice for the theme of our upcoming Water for Texas 2017 conference, to be held January 23–25, 2017, in Austin. Everyone with an interest in the future of Texas’ water is invited and encouraged to attend.

The conference will showcase innovative scientific, planning, and financial solutions to water challenges; it will demonstrate interactive data and technology; and it will initiate compelling conversations on water issues that affect all Texans. We have a terrific and diverse lineup of panels, workshops, speakers, and demonstrations that will offer something for everyone. Several of the sessions will fall within one of three tracks to help attendees target specific areas of interest: planning and infrastructure financing; science, technology, and conservation; and emergency management and flood;.

Moderated panel discussions will be offered on topics such as the challenges and potential solutions to employing more aquifer storage and recovery systems in Texas, and how economics affects the number of desalination projects and what it would take to overcome the cost hurdles to implement more across the state. Other sessions featuring representatives from cities and water supply corporations will discuss challenges and successes of implementing rural and agricultural water projects as well as large projects funded through the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program.*

Public-private partnerships; enhanced flood protection planning and response; groundwater; project implementation through affordable financial assistance programs; and integration of water loss, use, and conservation data reporting are just a few of several other topics.

Attendees will hear from prominent speakers including Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar; International Space Station Commander Dr. Leroy Chiao; and Roy Spence, co-founder and chairman of the award-winning creative agency, GSD&M. The agenda will also feature a panel discussion by state legislators moderated by Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of the Texas Tribune, which will provide an exclusive look ahead at policy issues for the 85th Legislative Session. Dr. Andrew Sansom, one of Texas' leading conservationists and the executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, will moderate a panel featuring several water industry experts who will discuss changing behaviors to improve water conservation.

Networking is a key component of Water for Texas 2017, and over the last several months of planning the agenda (which is available at http://waterfortexas.twdb.texas.gov) my TWDB colleagues and I continued to seek opportunities to bring attendees together during the conference. There will be ample time to connect during breaks and meals, between and during breakout sessions, and at the general sessions, welcome reception, and Innovative Water Supply Awards banquet. By educating ourselves on critical water issues, taking part in the conversation, and working together to identify solutions that meet the needs of our state, we can all help shape a positive future for Texas.

I hope you’ll join me in January at Water for Texas 2017. Early registration pricing is available through November 18 and regular pricing thereafter. Visit the conference website, http://waterfortexas.twdb.texas.gov, to learn more, view the agenda and speakers, and register to attend.

*SWIFT was established by the Texas Legislature and voters in 2013 to fund projects in the state water plan and was created through the transfer of a one-time $2 billion appropriation from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The $2 billion will be leveraged with revenue bonds over the next 50 years to finance approximately $27 billion in water supply projects. 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.

Bech Bruun was appointed chairman of the Texas Water Development Board by Governor Greg Abbott on June 10, 2015. He has served as a Board member of the Texas Water Development Board since September 1, 2013. A native of Corpus Christi, Bruun resides in Austin with his wife Glenna and their children Cilla Kay and Radford.

The Texas Water Development Board's mission is to provide leadership, information, education, and support for planning, financial assistance, and outreach for the conservation and responsible development of water for Texas.

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