Stress on our water supplies is on the minds of the public and the legislature, and it has only been underscored by our record setting and devastating drought. The current drought—still underway despite a wet December—boasts the longest, hottest, and driest period in recorded history, with estimated agricultural losses of over $5 billion and annual rainfall almost fifty percent below average.
On January 5, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) officially released its 2012 State Water Plan. This newest iteration of the Water Plan assesses Texas’ water needs through 2060, and it comes with a hefty price tag totaling $53 billion.
Summary of Water Plan
The 2012 Water Plan is the result of amassed regional studies and analyses of current and projected water supply needs. Factors considered in regional planning activities include municipal, agricultural, manufacturing, and mining needs and various water strategies including, but not limited to, inter-basin transfers, conservation, new reservoirs, water reuse, new treatment facilities, desalination, and pipelines. A snapshot of regional needs provides a sobering look at the challenges that lay ahead for Texas.
Highlights of Total Capital Costs by Region:
• Region A Texas Panhandle—$739 million
• Region B North Central Texas—$499 million
• Region C Trinity Basin/DFW—$21.5 billion
• Region E Far West Texas—$842 million
• Region F Edwards Plateau—$915 million
• Region G Brazos River Basin—$3.2 billion
• Region H Trinity, San Jacinto, Brazos, Neches, and Colorado river basins/Houston—$12 billion
• Region I East Texas—$885 million
• Region K Lower Colorado River—$907 million
• Region L South Central—$7.6 billion
• Region M Rio Grande Basin—$2.2 billion
• Region N Coastal Bend—$656 million
• Region O Llano Estacado/Southern High Plains—$1.1 billion
Unless significant action is taken, the plan paints a dire picture for the economic future of Texas. By 2060, existing water supplies are expected to decline by 10%, and Texas is projected to almost double in population to almost 47 million people. In 2011 alone, Texas gained 500,000 new residents, placing additional stress on our water supplies and infrastructure.
Dealing with our projected growth utilizing different regional strategies is central to the 2012 Water Plan. If the state fails to implement the plan, Texas will not have enough water to meet demands, with an estimated loss of over $116 billion in economic activity, and over a million Texas jobs.
Challenge Ahead to Identify Funding and Build Consensus
The harsh reality of the 2012 Water Plan is a familiar one for AGC members. Infrastructure neglect can cause exponential economic harm to Texas (not to mention our industry) if appropriate steps are not taken. Pressure on federal, state, and local governments to fund projects and seek out alternatives is increasing, and several ideas have been floated, like tap fees, removing bottled water exemptions, dedicated trust funds, and public private partnerships. The reality is that no silver bullet exists and all options are on the table. The universal truth that everyone can agree on is that failure to act will have economic consequences that will ripple across all industries, Texas communities, and even beyond the borders of our great state.
There are encouraging signs that consensus is growing across industry lines to address ways to fund our water plan. AGC of Texas has been integral in elevating water infrastructure investment as top priority and was key in passing Proposition 2 water bonds, but we cannot stop there or bear the burden singlehandedly. Fortunately the volume of the conversation is rising in Texas and nationally as influential groups, such as the Texas Association of Business and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have begun to include water infrastructure as a key focus for job growth and economic development.
Lessons of Proposition 2
The passage of Proposition 2 in November was a key victory for Texas to ensure that the TWDB will have a perpetual $6 billion bonding capability so it may continue issuing low interest loans to water entities. Proposition 2 bonds will assist in making critical water infrastructure investments in communities across the state. However, the burden of funding the majority of projects falls back on consumer and local entities, who are also the ultimate beneficiary of these investments.
There is an asterisk in the Proposition 2 equation, which is significant. In the midst of the worst drought in recorded history, in spite of AGC efforts, the Texas Infrastructure Now Campaign, and action by other groups, Proposition 2 passed by a margin of only 20,000 votes, or three%. Almost 50% of Texans, who took the time to vote, voted against a mechanism to provide a low cost alternative to funding water projects, which saves individual consumers money.
As evidenced by Proposition 2, the “culture of no” and the knee jerk reaction to reject crucial infrastructure investments reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of how important our infrastructure is for society and the consequent devaluation of our most precious resource. Due to this, there is a considerable cost and a consequence.
What AGC Members Can Do
• Go to the Texas Water Development Board’s website at www.twdb. state.tx.us
• Read the 2012 Water Plan and learn how your area is impacted.
• Talk to your friends, colleagues, and family and encourage them to learn more.
• Participate in AGC meetings and encourage discussions about the Water Plan in your area.
• Get involved with the AGC M&U Division.