The high price for Texas’ water future

Texas will need to spend more than $150 billion over the next 50 years on water infrastructure. This price tag includes the costs associated with building new water supplies, developing flood control and mitigation strategies, and fixing aging, deteriorating water and wastewater systems across the state. These investments are essential for Texas communities to address the problems associated with drought, flood, and crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure.

This is a brief, high level summary of the estimated capital costs for building the water infrastructure needed for a growing – and thirsty – state.  The multi-billion dollar magnitude of these costs underscore the need for legislative leadership for creating endowed funds and long-term revenue streams dedicated towards addressing these water infrastructure needs.

New water supplies: $80 billion over the next 50 years
  • The 2022 State Water Plan prepared by the Texas Water Development Board forecasts that Texas will need to spend $80 billion over the next 50 years to develop and implement the water supply projects and strategies needed to avoid water shortages during drought.
  • Of that $80 billion, $47 billion in financial assistance will need to be provided by the State of Texas.
  • Since its inception in 2013, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT, has committed approximately $9.9 billion to projects in the State Water Plan.
Fixing aging, deteriorating drinking water systems: $45.15 billion over the next 20 years
  • The most recent survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that Texas will need to spend $45.15 billion (in 2015 dollars) over the next 20 years to rehabilitate or replace aging, deteriorating drinking water systems.  
  • This cost estimate reflects the costs associated with replacing or refurbishing aging, deteriorating pipes, rehabilitating systems to reduce contamination, developing water storage reservoirs, and refurbishing wells and intake structures.
  • Given recent inflationary pressures and the rise in capital costs for water projects since 2015, the price tag for fixing Texas’ aging, deteriorating drinking water systems likely exceeds the $45.15 billion amount reported in 2015.
Fixing aging, deteriorating wastewater systems: $11.8 billion over the next 20 years
  • In 2012, the E.P.A. estimated that it would cost $11.8 billion to fix Texas’ wastewater systems in order to bring them into compliance with U.S. Clean Water Act standards. The E.P.A. is currently conducting a new survey to estimate the costs associated with fixing Texas’ wastewater systems.
  • This estimate reflected the costs associated with building new sewer systems, rehabilitating existing sewer systems, wastewater treatment and, among other items, stormwater management.
Building Flood Control and Mitigation Projects: $38 billion
  • The regional flood plans submitted to Texas Water Development Board estimate that the state will need to spend $38 billion on flood control and mitigation projects.
  • TWDB is working on drafting the first State Flood Plan by Sept. 1, 2024. That plan will include a cost estimate for flood control and mitigation projects recommended within the state’s flood planning regions.
  • As of 2023, TWDB has committed over $495 million to 140 projects through the Flood Infrastructure Fund.

Learn more: Last week, Jeremy testified before the Senate Finance Committee about infrastructure investments needed at state water board.