AUSTIN (KXAN) — Something that appears to bridge partisan divides at the Texas Capitol is water because that singular issue is uniting a broad coalition of House lawmakers during this legislative session.

At least 67 state representatives are now officially a part of the newly-formed Texas House Water Caucus. Those members include legislators from the state’s biggest cities to its rural communities — with almost an equal number of Republicans and Democrats among its ranks. This caucus, according to its organizers, will work this session to not only prioritize building up the state’s water supply but also invest in Texas’ aging water infrastructure.

State Rep. Tracy King, a Laredo Democrat, will serve as the water caucus’ first chairman. He represents House District 80, which includes Atascosa, Dimmit, Frio, Uvalde, Webb and Zavala counties. He is also chairman of the House natural resources committee this session.

“I want people to understand that the legislature in the state of Texas takes water needs very, very seriously,” King said, “and that we’re going to do whatever we can to try and make sure that Texas is secure when it comes to their water resources.”

Each week the Texas Water Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit, plans to hold educational information sessions for the water caucus members so that they can learn various aspects of policy. Sarah Rountree Schlessinger, the group’s CEO, said this will help create “water champions” at the Capitol, especially among the newer lawmakers there. She added water should remain atop any legislator’s priority list, not just when natural disasters, like floods or prolonged drought, happen.

“Water is one of those things that is just the lifeblood of the state. It’s a baseline topic that always needs to be prioritized,” Schlessinger said. “Particularly in a session where we have a budget surplus — and there are going to be a number of competing priorities, we want to make sure that there are legislators who really recognize and appreciate the critical investment needs that are available for water security and that it’s at the forefront.”

The new year began with an announcement from the U.S. Census Bureau that Texas’ population now exceeds 30 million people. When looking at the percentage change, Texas is the fourth-fastest-growing state. That accelerated amount of growth illustrates to lawmakers, like State Rep. Cody Harris, the need to bolster water infrastructure.

“None of those folks are bringing more water or pipes with them,” Harris said. “So we’ve got to make sure that we do everything we can to plan ahead to make sure that the future generations have enough water supply and water security down the road. That’s why I think the water caucus brings together members — whether they’re on the committee or not — who share in that same goal.”

Harris, a Republican representative from Palestine in east Texas, said joining the first-ever water caucus is already having an impact on solely raising awareness.

“I’ve done probably five or six news interviews on the water caucus in the last three days, and maybe two on water policy in the last four years just being on the natural resources [committee],” he said. “So it’s drawing attention to this issue, and I think that was the whole hope of what it would do.”

Harris added he hopes his work with the water caucus will include attracting private partners to work with the state on desalinating brackish groundwater in places like Fort Worth, which would be part of a costly effort to grow the water supply. Meanwhile, King said he’d like Texas to make funds more easily accessible for water infrastructure improvement projects.

“Our hope is that we can create a fund of money, a pool of money, that would be available to help people match the grants and loans and things like that that are available,” King said, “particularly for the communities that find themselves with a low tax base or just are not financially able to do that.”

Texas House Water Caucus members

These 38 Republicans and 29 Democrats, listed in alphabetical order, signed onto the Texas House Water Caucus:

  • Rep. Steve Allison (House District 121)
  • Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson (House District 56)
  • Rep. Trent Ashby (House District 9)
  • Rep. Ernest Bailes (House District 18)
  • Rep. Keith Bell (House District 4)
  • Rep. Rhetta Bowers (House District 113)
  • Rep. John Bryant (House District 114)
  • Rep. Brad Buckley (House District 54)
  • Rep. John H. Bucy III (House District 136)
  • Rep. DeWayne Burns (House District 58)
  • Rep. Dustin Burrows (House District 83)
  • Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Campos (House District 119)
  • Rep. Terry Canales (House District 40)
  • Rep. Travis Clardy (House District 11)
  • Rep. Charles Cunningham (House District 127)
  • Rep. Drew Darby (House District 72)
  • Rep. Mark Dorazio (House District 122)
  • Rep. Lulu Flores (House District 51)
  • Rep. Frederick Frazier (House District 61)
  • Rep. Stan Gerdes (House District 17)
  • Rep. Mary González (House District 75)
  • Rep. Vikki Goodwin (House District 47)
  • Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra (House District 41)
  • Rep. Cody Harris (House District 8)
  • Rep. Abel Herrero (House District 34)
  • Rep. Donna Howard (House District 48)
  • Rep. Carrie Isaac (House District 73)
  • Rep. Jacey Jetton (House District 26)
  • Rep. Jolanda Jones (House District 147)
  • Rep. Kyle Kacal (House District 12)
  • Rep. Tracy King (House District 80)
  • Rep. Stan Kitzman (House District 85)
  • Rep. John Kuempel (House District 44)
  • Rep. Stan Lambert (House District 71)
  • Rep. Brooks Landgraf (House District 81)
  • Rep. Oscar Longoria (House District 35)
  • Rep. Janie Lopez (House District 37)
  • Rep. John Lujan (House District 118)
  • Rep. Armando Martinez (House District 39)
  • Rep. Will Metcalf (House District 16)
  • Rep. Terry Meza (House District 105)
  • Rep. Christina Morales (House District 145)
  • Rep. Eddie Morales (House District 74)
  • Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (House District 148)
  • Rep. Geanie W. Morrison (House District 30)
  • Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (House District 107)
  • Rep. Claudia Ordaz (House District 79)
  • Rep. Mihaela Plesa (House District 70)
  • Rep. Four Price (House District 87)
  • Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (House District 102)
  • Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (House District 42)
  • Rep. Glenn Rogers (House District 60)
  • Rep. Ramon Romero (House District 90)
  • Rep. Hugh D. Shine (House District 55)
  • Rep. Shelby Slawson (House District 59)
  • Rep. David Spiller (House District 68)
  • Rep. Lynn Stucky (House District 64)
  • Rep. Carl H. Tepper (House District 84)
  • Rep. Kronda Thimesch (House District 65)
  • Rep. Ed Thompson (House District 29)
  • Rep. Senfronia Thompson (House District 141)
  • Rep. Tony Tinderholt (House District 94)
  • Rep. Ellen Troxclair (House District 19)
  • Rep. Chris Turner (House District 101)
  • Rep. Cody Vasut (House District 25)
  • Rep. Armando Walle (House District 140)
  • Rep. Erin Zwiener (House District 45)