2012 DRAFT STATE WATER PLAN RELEASED
The Texas Water Development Board has issued its 2012 draft State Water Plan, which can be viewed here: http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/wrpi/swp/draft.asp.
The State Water Plan is designed to provide for the orderly development, management, and conservation of water resources in the state. The plan is intended to provide that sufficient water will be available at a reasonable cost to ensure the public health, to further economic development, and to protect the agricultural and natural resources of the entire state.
Among many other things, the plan addresses: (1) reservoir site designation and acquisition; (2) environmental water needs; (3) water conservation; and (4) the financing of water management strategies. It is the “road map” to preparing for the state’s future water needs.
The problem is that the state lacks the funding to implement much of the plan. In the past, members of the legislature have proposed various solutions, some of which could have been detrimental to cities. The 2011-2012 state budget shortfall led to no funding mechanisms being dedicated to the State Water Plan last session. The current iteration of the plan provides only that:
During the 82nd Legislative session a new model of funding state water plan projects was discussed. This model would involve a deposit of funding, either from general revenue, a fee, or another appropriate source designated by the legislature. This funding, one-time or ongoing over a period of time, could be utilized to make loans to entities for state water plan projects.
The “fee” mentioned above likely refers toproposed “tap fees” (sometimes referred to as a “state tax on water”) to be levied on municipal water customers to fund the plan. City officials have traditionally been opposed to such a fee because it: (1) requires cities to act as collection agents for the state; (2) may cause disputes between cities related to where the fee revenue is collected and spent; and (3) does not fairly spread the burden among other water users (e.g., agriculture and other users).
Cities have the opportunity to comment on the plan until October 25, 2011. (Information on how to comment is posted at the link above.) The League will analyze potential funding options during the coming months through its legislative policy development process.