With early voting beginning October 21, our office has been getting a lot of questions about the proposed constitutional amendments, especially Proposition 6. For those who are not familiar, Proposition 6 is the proposal that will be on the November 5th ballot that creates a constitutionally dedicated account to fund the State Water Plan. Before voters head to the polls, I’d like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this proposal.
What will this program do for Texas?
The funds made available through Proposition 6 would help communities develop and optimize water supplies at cost-effective interest rates. The upfront costs on water infrastructure can often make it difficult for communities to build what they need. Proposition 6 provides an opportunity for communities to overcome this hurdle by allowing access to low-cost, flexible financing options for water projects. This financial assistance will enable local communities to begin needed water projects.
How would the program ensure adequate water supplies?
The funds would be used to provide low-cost financing for projects in the state water plan – a plan created by local and regional entities, with the assistance of the state, to meet future water demands in Texas. Every five years, 16 regional water planning groups assess the projected population and water demands and supplies in their areas over the next 50 years. Each region then compiles a regional water plan, and those plans are rolled up into the state water plan. The state water plan also includes important information on statewide trends and policy issues, and it lists the water supply strategies identified to meet the regional water shortages over the next 50 years.
How does Proposition 6 help rural Texas?
Rural and agricultural stakeholders serve as integral part of the water planning process. This process identifies water supply projects in rural areas that go into the state water plan. Additionally, Proposition 6 states that at least 20 percent of the funds are to be used for conservation purposes and 10 percent must go directly to rural communities.
Where will the money come from?
If voters approve Proposition 6, the Legislature has authorized a one-time, $2 billion investment from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) to implement this revolving loan fund. This seed capital plus interest will be paid back to the ESF at the end of the 50-year period.
Will this program affect groundwater or surface water rights?
No. Proposition 6 will not affect groundwater rights or other private property rights in any way. There are no provisions within Proposition 6 that would require landowners to meter their wells. Surface water (water from lakes, rivers and streams) is governed by an entirely separate set of statutes that will not be affected by this program.
What will happen if Proposition 6 does not pass?
Many communities may not be able to get adequate financing for water infrastructure projects, and our state could face critical water shortages. As the ongoing, severe drought demonstrates, some Texas communities currently do not have enough water to meet demands during times of drought. By 2060, the Texas population is expected to nearly double and existing water supplies are projected to decrease by 10 percent, creating a need for an additional 8.3 million acre-feet per year—or about 2.7 trillion gallons. If the state fails to help communities develop enough water supplies to protect against future drought conditions, Texas will undoubtedly suffer significant economic losses. Estimated economic losses in the year 2060 could exceed $116 billion, including over 1.1 million lost jobs.
As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.