Voters will decide how to spend the state’s historic surplus this November when they vote on fourteen different constitutional amendment propositions. One item comes after North Texas saw more droughts and extreme weather this year and aims to restore aging and damaged water infrastructure.
Proposition 6 will create a dedicated Texas Water Fund to finance water projects through the Texas Water Development Board. $1 billion from the state’s surplus will get the fund started for repairing and replacing pipes along with larger water projects like wastewater treatment plants and reservoirs.
“Texas is facing a very stark situation aging and fragile infrastructure. A lot of our infrastructure is very old, very outdated,” said Sarah Kirkle, policy director for the Texas Water Conservation Association.
The Texas Water Conservation Association is the trade group for organizations like the Dallas Water Authority, the Upper Trinity Regional Water Authority, and others across the state.
Kirkle tells NBC 5 that every year, enough water leaks out of utilities to supply Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, and other cities for an entire year.
“You’ve probably seen in the news, you know, boil water notices and pipe breaks, leaking water. That happens not just because our pipes are very old but also because of extreme weather,” said Kirkle.
Utilities, homeowners, and conservation groups across the state argue the state’s water system is getting a bit old.
“Our water systems are so old and leaker that they get a C- according to the American Society of Civil Engineers,” said Jeremy Mazur from the non-profit think tank Texas 2036.
Mazur argues every time a boil water notice goes out or a pipe bursts, it’s usually a signal of infrastructure in need of upgrades. Brought and severe storms only add to the problems.
“Extreme weather has always been a part of the Texas experience, and extreme weather will continue to be a part of the Texas experience. This means that we can expect more long, hot, drought-plagued summers,” said Mazur.
Only four lawmakers out of the 181 in Austin voted against putting this issue up to voters this fall. One person spoke against the idea in the committee process.
With the state’s population poised to reach 50 million by 2070, a $1 billion state investment will be a drop in the bucket, but advocates say it will be a start.