A pair of bills filed last week in the Texas Legislature would take $2 billion from the state’s $8.8 billion Rainy Day Fund to finance a revolving bond program for local water supply efforts.
House Bills 4 and 11 by Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, would establish the low-interest loan program for cities and other water suppliers.
Ritter, who will head the House Natural Resources Committee, said the money is needed to begin implementing a long-range state water plan adopted last year by the Texas Water Development Board.
The bond-financed revolving loans could pay the entire $53 billion price tag put on the plan over the next 50 years, Ritter said.
"It is vital for the future of Texas that a dedicated source of revenue be established for funding the state water plan," Ritter said. "Our economy depends on it, our communities depend on it, and, ultimately, our daily lives depend on it."
The water plan predicts that as many as 26 new reservoirs will be needed to serve the 46 million Texans expected by 2060, along with expensive desalinization plants and extensive pipeline systems.
Ritter’s proposal mandates that 20% of the expenditures from the bond fund go to water conservation and re-use projects, including efforts to plug leaking water systems in large cities.
The proposal is “a serious response to a critical need,” said Tony Bennett, president of the Texas Association of Manufacturers.
"Our entire economy depends on swift and appropriate action to address the state's water needs," Bennett said.
Ritter’s bills have been endorsed by the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Sierra Club.