Proposition 6 - Texas Water Fund
Published October 17, 2023 by Julia Stanford
In an unprecedented effort to support the water needs of the growing Texas population, the state legislature recently passed Senate Bill (SB) 28 and the associated Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 75 during the 88th regular legislative session to create the Texas Water Fund and New Water Supply Fund. These new funds represent a generational investment in water infrastructure that serves as a robust down payment on Texas’ future. Registered voters will have the opportunity to unlock this future on Election Day as they consider Proposition 6.
Proposition 6 will appear on the November general election ballot asking Texans if they wish to approve a “constitutional amendment creating the Texas Water Fund to assist in financing water projects in this state.” If approved, the Texas Water Fund will be created and $1 billion will be appropriated from the state’s general revenue fund. The fund and any associated transfers or expenditures would then be administered by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).
Unmet Water Demands and Aging Infrastructure
According to the 2022 State Water Plan, the population of Texas is projected to increase 73 percent between 2020 and 2070, from 29.7 3 million to 51.5 million. Meeting water supply demands in 2070 will cost an additional $80 billion, with more than half of this funding coming from state assistance. At the same time Texas is faced with providing water supplies to this growing population, Texas is experiencing aging infrastructure that is resulting in unnecessary water loss. According to a 2022 report by the Texas Living Water Project, Texas’ water systems leak an average of 572,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to fill a major storage reservoir. Surveys from the Environmental Protection Agency estimate that Texas utilities have a $61 billion+ backlog of work to maintain and improve drinking water systems to meet basic service and public safety standards in the coming decades, and that an additional $12 billion backlog exists in wastewater and stormwater needs to protect against pollution and water quality issues.
Governor Greg Abbott and members of the water community celebrate his signing of SB 28 to make it law.
Proposition 6 stems from two related legislative actions passed in the 88th session earlier this year. SB 28 was filed by Senator Charles Perry and sponsored in the house by Representative Tracy O. King. SB 28 establishes and outlines the use of the Texas Water Fund and New Water Supply for Texas Fund. SJR 75 creates the constitutional amendment necessary to carry out creation of the Texas Water Fund. Both SB 28 and SJR 75 were supported by the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts through the organization’s legislative committee process. The Texas water community rallied around this effort, with over 70 water-related organizations coming together to form a coalition in support of this critical investment in Texas water. SB 30 (a supplemental appropriations bill) authorized a one-time $1 billion supplemental appropriation of general revenue to the fund, contingent upon the passage of the associated constitutional amendment. Importantly, this $1 billion investment will come from an existing government surplus. This means that voter approval of the Texas Water Fund does not authorize or otherwise result in any new taxes or fees. While $1 billion is not enough to address all of the water supply and infrastructure needs, it is a great start.
The Proposed Texas Water Fund
If Proposition 6 is approved by the voters, $1 billion will be deposited into the Texas Water Fund and may then be divided among the following funds or accounts administered by the TWDB:
- The New Water Supply for Texas Fund, a new fund primarily used to develop water supply projects such as desalination, produced water treatment, aquifer storage and recovery, and the development of infrastructure to transport such water supplies. SB 28 requires at least $250 million must be allocated to this fund.
- The statewide water public awareness account, a newly created account that would direct funds toward a statewide public awareness program.
- The State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas, which support the SWIFT financial assistance program that provides low-cost financing for projects in the state water plan.
- The Clean Water or Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, existing financial assistance programs that provide low-cost financial assistance for planning, acquisition, design, and construction of water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater infrastructure.
- The Rural Water Assistance Fund, an existing financial assistance program designed to assist small rural utilities in obtaining low-cost financing for water and wastewater projects.
- The Texas Water Development Fund II water financial assistance account and state participation account.
Thanks to Texas 2036 for these two graphics.
Within those accounts, TWDB would have to ensure that a portion of the money transferred from the fund is used for the following priorities, per SB 28:
- water infrastructure projects, prioritized by risk or need, for rural political subdivisions and municipalities with a population of less than 150,000
- projects for which all required state or federal permitting has been substantially completed
- the statewide water public awareness program
- water conservation strategies
- water loss mitigation projects
Of particular interest in the groundwater community, investments made to develop new water supplies through the New Water Supply Fund coud help alleviate present and future demands on groundwater. SB 28 directs the TWDB to finance projects through this fund that will lead to 7 million acre-feet of new water supplies by 2033. New water supplies realized through implementation of this program would help meet the 4.7 million acre-foot annual shortfall forecasted by the 2022 State Water Plan.
The General Election will take place November 7, with early voting occurring October 23-November 3 (see box for details). The Texas Water Fund will appear on the ballot as Proposition 6. If a majority of voters fail to pass this constitutional amendment, the Texas Water Fund will not be created and no dollars will be appropriated to these projects and programs. For more information on Proposition 6 and other infrastructure-related propositions, you can view the following outside sources: an FAQ from TWDB here, a one-pager from Texas Water Foundation here, resources from Texas 2036 here, and information from the Texas Infrastructure Coalition here.
If the proposition passes, the TWDB will begin seeking early public input on implementing the Texas Water Fund legislation beginning later this fall. You can subscribe here to the “General Information” and “Financial Assistance” email lists from TWDB to receive information on participating.
Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts (TAGD) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization created in 1988 to provide a centralized means for groundwater conservation districts to engage and stay current on the quickly evolving world of groundwater science, policy, and management. TAGD currently has 92 groundwater conservation district members and 39 associate members.