What is the one thing that every living thing needs? Of course the answer is water. Texas is a fast growing state, and unfortunately we have been a dryer than normal state for quite some time. Because of that, we are beginning to see firsthand what the future might be like without the water resources available to meet our needs.
The good thing is we can do something about this problem. Years ago our state lawmakers put in place a plan to help meet the states growing water needs, so that water would always come out of the tap when we turned the spigot. Now, because of our healthy economy and booming oil and gas business, we have the resources to fund that plan and ensure that we have water to meet our current and future needs.
Proposition 6 is a must-pass item on the November ballot. It sets up a revolving fund to pay for local water projects to meet local needs. The $2 billion in Rainy Day Fund money that we initially put into the new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) will be invested, not spent. As I said, this will be a revolving fund, meaning money that is loaned out will be paid back and then used to make more loans in the future.
I’ve heard some people say that we have enough money to pay for this plan without using money from the Rainy Day Fund. That simply is not the case. If it were, we probably would have done that a long time before now. Lawmakers have been struggling to find new fees or taxes to pay for this plan since it was originally passed in 1997. This may be our only chance to fund it with existing revenues.
I’ve also heard people say we should just conserve water and not build a lot of new projects, like reservoirs, to increase our total supply. The truth is we need both conservation and new supply. We cannot meet our growing needs without a combination of both.
Conservation also costs money. Saving the large amount of water that we must save isn’t just a matter of low flow toilets. It is a matter of doing things like changing agricultural watering techniques and equipment, which takes money. It is a matter of researching new ways to use water more effectively, especially for heavy industrial users. Even finding new ways to reuse wastewater can cost money.
There has been a lot of talk about building desalinization plants to make use of water that is currently unusable. That is certainly an option, but again those plants are extremely expensive to build, along with the pipelines or other delivery systems for that water once it is fit to drink. The bottom line is we cannot reach any of our statewide water goals regarding supply or conservation without a significant funding source, and that is what Proposition 6 will give us.
It is my view that it would send a very bad economic message to the rest of the country and world if Proposition 6 is not approved. It would send a message that Texas is no longer interested in continued economic growth. We have worked too hard to build up the reputation of this state as the destination for new and expanding business to throw it all away now.
Proposition 6 makes good economic sense; it does not raise any taxes; and it is a conservative use of our money that will pay dividends to water ratepayers for decades to come.
Bill Hammond is president and
CEO of the Texas Association of Business.