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Friday, September 29, 2023


Water discussion flows to UH

Experts were on hand Tuesday at the Athletics/Alumni Center to discuss Proposition 6 and the implications it has on the future of water in Texas.

The proposition promises to “assist in financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.”

The constitutional amendment plans to provide for water needs in Texas in the next 50 years through the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund, but whether the SWIF goes into effect depends entirely on the voters of Texas, because the bill is amending Article III of the Texas Constitution. Voting day is Nov. 5.

The proposition authorizes a one-time transfer of $2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund to fully implement the State Water Plan.

“Legislation has been trying to find a method to fund the State Water Plan, and we have not been able to accomplish (it) because it took tax, a fee (or) some basis like this,” said Rep. Allan Ritter. “It has not been that high priority.”

The issue of water became even more pressing after 2011’s drought. Texas State Director for the Nature Conservancy Laura Huffman said the timing for this election is perfect because of the consequences of recent droughts and called water a local and statewide issue.

“Houston is actually a perfect example,” Huffman said. “Not only does Houston have to find future water supplies in order to support its doubling in size over several decades, but Houston will also benefit from or suffer from water planning in Dallas, for example, which is going to send whatever comes down Trinity River to Houston.”

The panelists said that planning future water supplies isn’t enough if Texans don’t understand the importance of conservation and “fundamentally changing behavior as it relates to water.”

“We live in a state that really hasn’t had (to take action about) water use,” Huffman said. “We’re just now at a point where major Texas cities, as a whole, have taken conservation measures at a local level but actually regulated how often people use water.”

A big part of the problem relates to watering lawns. As much as half of outdoor use of water in the warmer months is wasted, according to the Texas Water Development Board. This is where citizens can have a great impact, according to the panelists.

“Anything that we can do to get the efficient use of existing water is in the best interest of every sector,” Huffman said. “It’s in the best interest of cities, it’s in the best interest of (agriculture), energy and industry, and it is certainly in the best interest of our rivers, streams and aquifers … We will simply start thinking differently about water.”

One theory about the State Water Plan assumes a solution can be engineered by the use of technology, said Texas Tribune CEO and Editor in Chief Evan Smith. The emphasis has been put on reservoirs and piping water from places that have it to places that need it when the emphasis should be on long-term solutions, such as desalinization, reuse and conservation.

Huffman is confident that the proposition will be passed because people feel responsibility.

“It’s not just people who are charged with providing water that are engaging … so that gives me hope,” Huffman said. “Water is one of those issues that Texans in general feel sort of a personal accountability for. This is not one of those complicated problems where people are pointing fingers at someone else saying, ‘You broke it, you fix it.’”

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