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House Poised To Provide Dedicated Funding For Water Projects

May 9, 2023By Jeremy Mazur

The Texas House of Representatives has taken an important, historic step toward establishing a reliable funding stream to support key water initiatives this year by approving a proposed constitutional amendment to dedicate a set amount of state sales tax revenue each year to support efforts to meet the demands of a growing, thirsty state in the decades to come.

The amendment by state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, provides funding certainty for this legislative session’s signature efforts to secure new water supplies and fix aging, leaky water infrastructure.
The House overwhelmingly adopted the amendment on a vote of 127-5. If it receives two-thirds approval from the Senate, the amendment would go before the voters for their approval in the November constitutional election.

The amendment would annually direct $250 million of the net revenue from the state sales and use tax collected in excess of $30.5 billion to the Texas Water Fund, which would be established by separate legislation originating in the Senate.

That legislation has passed the Senate and is expected to make it to the House floor soon.

A dedicated revenue stream for the Texas Water Fund provides more than just funding certainty for these important initiatives. It also complements lawmakers’ efforts this session to provide upfront funding from the state’s historic revenue surplus to jump start this new strategy. Taken together, their work represents a monumental and historic change in the state’s financial strategy in addressing our water infrastructure needs.

The data underscores the need for lawmakers’ bold action for water infrastructure funding:

  • Between now and 2070, demand for water in Texas is forecasted to increase by roughly 9% while the state’s water supply is expected to decrease by 18%, according to the State Water Plan.
  • State and federal estimates predict that Texas will need to spend over $100 billion over the next 50 years to address the state’s water supply and aging infrastructure needs.
  • Texas water utilities lose at least 572,000 acre-feet of water per year due to leaky, aging water infrastructure. That’s more than the amount of water that may be stored in a large surface reservoir like Lake Buchanan or Possum Kingdom Lake.
  • Texas’ drinking water infrastructure earned a C- and its wastewater infrastructure fared even worse with a D, according to a 2021 water infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • This water legislation squarely addresses voters’ concerns. According to recent Texas 2036 polls, 89% of voters support spending some of this year’s historic state revenue surplus to fix aging, deteriorating systems. In addition, another 82% also support using surplus funds to develop new water supplies.
For Texas to continue as the nation’s leading jobs and economic growth generator, water is a key ingredient. Lawmakers must seize the opportunity and finish the job to assure our future water supplies and, by extension, our state’s future.

Jeremy Mazur is senior policy advisor on water, energy and infrastructure issues at Texas 2036, a nonpartisan and nonprofit public policy organization.

Jeremy Mazur

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