House panel backs funding source for water projects

House Joint Resolution 169 provides funding certainty for this session’s signature efforts to secure new water supplies and fix aging, leaky water infrastructure.

The House Natural Resources Committee took an important, historic step this week toward establishing a reliable funding stream for this session’s signature water legislation, approving a proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution to dedicate a set amount of state sales tax revenue each year to support efforts to meet the demands of a growing, thirsty state in the decades to come.

House Joint Resolution 169 by state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, complements efforts this legislative session to establish constitutionally dedicated funds to fix aging, leaky water systems and to secure new water supplies through technologies like desalination or importing water from sources outside Texas.

The House committee approved HJR 169 on Wednesday, April 26.

The amendment would annually direct $250 million of the net revenue from the state sales and use tax collected in excess of $30.5 billion to the Texas Water Fund, which would be established by Senate Bill 28/Senate Joint Resolution 75.

That legislation has already passed the Senate and awaits final action by the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Just as the Legislature and Texas voters have approved dedicated revenue streams for our parks and transportation infrastructure, the same needs to happen for water. A dedicated revenue stream for the Texas Water Fund would provide reliable, consistent funding for both new water supply projects and fixing our aging, deteriorating water systems,” said Texas 2036 Senior Policy Advisor Jeremy Mazur.

“This represents a monumental and historic change in the state’s financial strategy in addressing our water infrastructure needs.”

The data underscores the need for lawmakers’ bold action for water infrastructure funding:
  • Between now and 2070, demand for water in Texas is forecasted to increase by roughly 9% while the state’s water supply is expected to decrease by 18%, according to the State Water Plan.
  • State and federal estimates predict that Texas will need to spend over $100 billion over the next 50 years to address the state’s water supply and aging infrastructure needs.
  • Texas water utilities lose at least 572,000 acre-feet of water per year due to leaky, aging water infrastructure. That’s more than the amount of water that may be stored in a large surface reservoir like Lake Buchanan or Possum Kingdom Lake.
  • Texas’ drinking water infrastructure earned a C- and its wastewater infrastructure fared even worse with a D, according to a 2021 water infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • SB 28/SJR 75 and HJR 169 squarely address voters’ concerns. According to recent Texas 2036 polls, 89% of voters support spending some of this year’s historic state revenue surplus to fix aging, deteriorating systems. In addition, another 82% also support using surplus funds to develop new water supplies.

HJR 169 now goes to the full House for consideration. If it receives two-thirds approval from the House and Senate, the amendment would go before the voters for their approval in the November constitutional election.

The Legislature last passed major water legislation in 2013 when lawmakers and the voters approved legislation to create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), which was designed to provide financing for water supply projects in the state water plan.

Widespread support for water measures

Close to three dozen organizations have joined Texas 2036 in their support for these historic measures to address Texas’ growing water infrastructure needs:

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