AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state could set aside $3 billion to look into creating new sources of water, but that’s only if a Texas senator’s bill makes it through this legislative session. However, this proposal got a major boost of support after the lieutenant governor named it as one of his top priorities Monday.
State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, put forward two pieces of legislation — Senate Bill 837 and Senate Joint Resolution 43 — that would set aside a portion of the state’s record budget surplus to fund development projects of new water supply sources. According to the bill, those projects could include things like acquisition of water rights from another state, infrastructure to transport water from another state, desalination efforts of marine or brackish water and research into new technology.
In an interview Tuesday, Perry said the drought gripping the state coupled with population growth only add to the “perfect storm” happening for Texas to make some major infrastructure investments.
“We never let a crisis go to waste, so to speak, and we’re actually fortunate that the state is seeing the surplus in dollars,” Perry said. “This is an infrastructure session for me…so water is a infrastructure item — no different than the grid, no different than our communications through broadband networks. We need to make sure we have a water supply.”
One of his proposals would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November so that voters could sign off on creating this additional fund for projects that the Texas Water Development Board would ultimately oversee.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick listed “addressing Texas’ future water needs” as one of the 30 bills he will prioritize passing in the state Senate this session. Perry said he appreciates that acknowledgement, which he added shows water as being part of the state’s critical infrastructure needs.
“We’ve got our platform and party issues, and that’s why there’s two parties,” Perry said, “but when it comes to infrastructure, those are absolutely bipartisanship. I will say: to the 181 members’ credit, when it comes to infrastructure stuff, we all pull the cart in the same direction and get the job done.”
It remains unclear Tuesday whether the state’s water supply will make it onto the list of emergency policy items designated by Gov. Greg Abbott. He is set to share his own legislative priorities during his State of the State address on Thursday night, which will air on KXAN starting at 7 p.m.
At least 67 members of the Texas House of Representatives came together this session to form the first-ever House Water Caucus. This group will work to educate state lawmakers about various aspects of water policy and advocate for fixes, like spending some of the state budget surplus on water infrastructure improvements.