Texas is a big state with a variety of climates with varying rainfall.
The challenge for Texas is an engineering problem: saving enough water to accommodate years of drought amid increasing water demand, and gradually moving water from wet to arid regions.
Texas should encourage responsible water use via property and sales tax deductions.
Texas should expand investment in brackish water desalination and Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) systems.
Make membership in the Texas Water Development Board an elected office, like the State Board of Education.
Reverse the trend of state statute tilting the scales towards aggressive development at the expense of the water rights of existing property owners.
Texas must create and aggressively execute a new 100-year water plan.
Texas is a vast and varied country, composed of areas that get regular, consistent rainfall, areas with irregular rainfall which is sufficient over a long period, and areas which do not receive enough rainfall to account for the needs of Texans.
Texans shouldn’t be victims of water shortages–we have the talent, technology, and ingenuity to address our water needs (i.e., we are not California).
In 1968, Texas created a long-term water plan that would have come much closer to meeting the needs of Texans today, had it been followed. It called for the creation of 70 new reservoirs by 2020, importation of 13 million acre-feet of water per year from the Mississippi, and interconnection of reservoirs that would bring water from the wet areas in East Texas to dryer areas in the West, even to New Mexico. Although certain elements of this plan have come to fruition, since 1968 less than 50 reservoirs have been created. This is the generation of Texans who took America to the moon, and there are big ideas in this plan that need to be revisited.
New reservoirs cost billions, and are often 50-year projects. Virtually any steps that local jurisdictions can take to delay or curb the imminent need of a new lake will be financially justifiable.
Watering of cultivated lawns on acreage is the single biggest threat to our aquifers in the Western Metroplex. However, we can take at least two steps to positively incentivize rural property owners to use their land productively:
I will introduce legislation that will encourage, facilitate, and enable local political subdivisions to offer property tax deductions for un-irrigated acreage, akin to agricultural exemptions. This deduction would be available for properties of one acre or more (excluding the land directly under a homestead).
I will introduce legislation that will repeal the “5-year waiting period” for agricultural properties, and require all political subdivisions to extend agricultural exemptions to properties over one acre that are used for agricultural purposes (other than irrigated row-crops).
Even the dry areas of Texas often have deep brackish water reserves which, along with pipelines to coastal regions, could provide an almost endless supply of water via Reverse Osmosis (RO) desalination, a technology that has come a long way in recent years. Miraculously, God also blessed Texas with an almost infinite supply of natural gas, which could provide the energy to run the massive pumps in such facilities. The Texas Legislature should enact legislation like HB1889 which would study for industrial-scale water desalination. In addition, the Legislature should encourage the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to pursue the desalination of brackish reserves on state property, and sell the fresh water back to the state.
Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) is technology that is being used in other parts of the county to replenish aquifers with sanitized fresh water. Because of evaporation, aquifers have substantial advantages as storage reservoirs as compared to surface lakes–and they already exist deep under our feet. Texas should expand the funding of ASR feasibility studies across our Texas aquifers and, if possible, expand funding for the creation of ASR pumping facilities.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has enormous authority in dispensing billions of tax dollars for critical infrastructure projects, but is currently unaccountable to the people, as the board is appointed by the Governor. I will propose a constitutional amendment that requires that each seat on the TWDB board to represent an equal number of counties, and for each member to be elected by the people (as with the State Board of Education).