Rain Drops Keep Falling…
Does This Mean the Drought is Over?
An Update From the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
As of Nov. 9, the State of Texas reported drought conditions in 4 percent of the state, down from the previous week when slightly less than 16 of the state experienced drought conditions. Every Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor posts the most updated conditions for the state, available at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?TX.
For years, water has been cited as a top concern in the Lone Star State. But in light of the recent rains and flooding, is water still a problem? According to the TWDB, the answer is “both yes and no.” Parts of Texas received little to no rainfall in the last few weeks. As of press time, there were reservoirs in the San Angelo area that were very low.
Even when Texas is drought free, the next drought is usually right around the corner. That is why at the TWDB, “we plan for the drought of record, which took place from 1950-1957.”
How Can Counties Help?
Interested parties within each county are encouraged to contact their regional planning group to get involved in the planning process. There are 16 regional planning groups around the state that are made up of about 20 members representing interests groups such as agriculture, industry, environment, water utilities and others. The 16 regional planning groups each create a regional water plan that they submit to the TWDB every five years. The regional water plans are then compiled to create the Texas State Water Plan. The next round of regional plans are due to the TWDB by Dec. 1, and the new Texas State Water Plan will be published in 2017. You can read more about the planning process at the following link: http://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/rwp/index.asp
In addition to participating in the regional planning process, officials should encourage residents to continue to conserve water and to make good water habits a daily part of their life. This includes simple tasks such as turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, not taking long showers, and minimizing the use of outdoor sprinklers. It’s also important to continue to educate people on the importance of water conservation. At the TWDB, we are exploring many innovative water technologies, such as desalination and reuse, to continue to create new water sources for the people of Texas.
What is the Latest Information on the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT)?
The Texas Legislature created SWIFT to provide affordable, ongoing state financial assistance for projects in the state water plan. Passed by the Legislature and approved by Texas voters through a constitutional amendment, SWIFT helps communities develop and optimize water supplies at cost-effective rates. The program provides low-interest loans, extended repayment terms, deferral of loan repayments, and incremental repurchase terms for projects with state ownership aspects. The TWDB approved the first round of SWIFT projects earlier this year. This first round will finance 30 projects, which are being sponsored by 20 different entities. The total amount of financial assistance for the first round is approximately $900 million. The TWDB will open the 2016 funding cycle for SWIFT on Dec. 1, 2015.
You can view the 2015 SWIFT commitments at the following link:
Back for Seconds: SWIFT Applications Open Dec. 1
By Bech Bruun, Chairman, Texas Water Development Board
Follow Bech @twdb_bech
Earlier this year, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved its first-ever round of financial assistance for water projects from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. The total amount of financial assistance for SWIFT projects in 2015 is approximately $900 million, which surpassed our projection of an initial funding cycle of $800 million. The TWDB estimates the 20 project sponsors will save more than $106 million on their 30 projects through the SWIFT program’s cost-effective financing.
Now we’re ready to approve more financial assistance for even more water projects across the state. On Dec. 1, 2015, the application period for the second round of financial assistance through the SWIFT program will open. Entities will have until Feb. 5, 2016, to submit the preliminary, two-page application.
The SWIFT program was created in 2013 when the Texas Legislature authorized a one-time transfer of $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to create a financial tool for financing projects in the Texas state water plan. The voters of Texas overwhelmingly approved the creation of the SWIFT program in November of that year.
Once the SWIFT program was approved, the next step was for the TWDB to develop rules on how projects would be prioritized and how the funds would be administered. Board members and staff traveled the state meeting with stakeholders and water user groups and soliciting public comment through Board meetings and work sessions. In November 2014, the TWDB adopted the rules for implementing the SWIFT program and opened the first-ever SWIFT application period.
In our first round of SWIFT program funding, we approved projects for transmission lines, wells, land acquisition, seawater desalination, brackish groundwater desalination, canal linings, reservoirs, and metering systems. The sponsors for these projects serve 40 counties in West, North, East, South, and Central Texas.
Now we want to make an even bigger impact. Our State Water Plan tells us by the year 2060, water demand will increase by 22 percent, but our existing supply of water will decrease by about 10 percent. Without implementing new water management strategies, we will not have enough water during times of drought, which, in Texas, tends to be more often than not. This past summer and fall illustrates the wild swings of Texas’ drought conditions. The state went from experiencing two brief, drought-free weeks this summer, to 50 percent of the state back in drought in mid-October, and then down to 16 percent in drought as of Oct. 29, 2015.
To meet our growing water demand, we need to develop water projects that will increase or maximize our existing water supply. The 2012 State Water Plan identifies hundreds of projects with a total capital cost of $53 billion. Water providers will need nearly $27 billion of that total capital cost in state financial assistance, hence the importance of SWIFT. The $2 billion from the SWIFT program will be leveraged with revenue bonds over the next 50 years to finance approximately $27 billion in water supply projects.
Voter support for the SWIFT program demonstrates Texans know how critical water is to our future. Investing in our state’s water infrastructure over the next 50 years will ensure that Texas remains the country’s most influential economic force.
Without water, we lose the ability to power our businesses, homes, and communities. With water, we continue to attract talented industry leaders, families, tourists, businesses, and employees.
As Texas continues to grow, our expanding population continues to need more and more water. It is vital that we take steps now, like utilizing the funding available from the TWDB through SWIFT and our other financial assistance programs, to make sure the demands of the future aren’t limited by our current water infrastructure.
Of the 9 million acre-feet in additional water supplies that would be provided by the water projects recommended in the 2012 State Water Plan, about 34 percent would come from conservation and reuse, another 34 percent from providing additional infrastructure for existing water supplies, and about 32 percent from developing new water supplies.
As chairman of the TWDB, I travel across the state talking to representatives of counties, cities, towns, utilities, authorities, districts, and other water providers about the financing options we can provide. My fellow TWDB Board member Kathleen Jackson meets with countless community leaders and citizens of this state who are concerned about the future of water. Our hope is that every square inch of Texas will benefit from these historic water development efforts. Tis the season for low-interest financial assistance, and as the saying goes, the more the merrier!
To apply for funding from the SWIFT program or the TWDB’s other financial assistance programs, please visit the TWDB’s financial assistance page at www.twdb.texas.gov/financial/index.asp or contact the TWDB at 512-463-0991 or Financial_Assistance@twdb.texas.gov. HH
Bech Bruun was appointed chairman of the Texas Water Development Board by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 10, 2015. He has served as a board member of the TWDB since Sept. 1, 2013. The TWDB 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.