AUSTIN – By a vote of 141 to 4, the Texas House today gave final approval to legislation which more than doubles the state’s investment in water conservation and creates a new water infrastructure fund to provide state financing to reservoir, pipeline and conservation projects. Once the Senate approves the conference report to HB 4, the bill will finally head to the Governor’s desk. The bill directs that 20 percent of the funding go towards water conservation measures and another 10 percent go towards rural projects, for which agricultural water conservation projects also qualify. The 2012 State Water Plan calls for just 11 percent of state funding to go towards conservation, but with the passage of HB 4, as much as 30 percent of the funding will now be directed to water-saving measures.
Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger released the following statement:
“The conference committee report is a big improvement over the beginning of session, when the debate was between setting aside between just 10 and 20 percent of the funding for conservation. The bill sends a powerful message to water planners that conservation needs to play a major role in our water future. According to a recent Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report, conservation could save at least 500 billion gallons of water per year by 2020.
Texans believe more needs to be done to cut water waste and protect water for environmental needs. A recent poll by Texas A&M found that “while most believe that short-term changes in annual rainfall are a major cause of water shortages, they also cited overuse and inadequate management of water resources, increased demand, and climate change as additional, important factors affecting drought.” Among various water strategies reviewed, the poll found that programs to encourage water conservation and protect water resources for environmental needs had the highest support.
If SJR 1 passes and voters approve the new $2 billion water fund, the new Texas Water Development Board will have enormous influence over the direction of water policy in Texas. We hope they will steer this money towards projects that cut waste and maximize conservation and avoid water projects that will harm our rivers and wildlife."