Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Water For Texas: Lawmakers Say State Needs More Than Money

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) says drought restriction enforcement should be uniform throughout the state.

Two billion dollars is a lot of money. It’s also how much some state lawmakers want to spend to protect Texas from future water shortages.

A lot has been made of that price tag. But when three state lawmakers sat down with StateImpact Texas at a forum in Austin last night, they also talked rulemaking.

State Rep. Lyle Larson, a Republican from San Antonio, said one thing the lege should tackle this session is how drought restrictions are enforced across the state.  He pointed out that in 2011, when almost all of Texas was in drought, some counties mandated conservation, while others just sort of let it slide.

“And so we’ve gotta fix that so everybody plays nice,” Larson said. “One county, they’re not watering their yards. They’ve got their car washes turned off, and 100 yards away they’ve got a community that’s got their car washes going.”

And here’s a little-known fact. The State’s Water Development Board, which oversees the State Water Plan, is governed by a part-time appointed body. State Senator Glenn Hegar, a Republican from Katy who sits on the Natural Resources Committee, says in the face of growing demand and tightening supply of water, that that’s got to change.

“I think we need to move to a full-time board without a doubt,” Hegar said, especially if the board gets the $2 billion to implement the water plan, he noted.

Which brings us back to the money and how it will be used.

Larson imagined that the average cost of a new water project would be about $25 million out of that $2 billion starting fund. Hegar was unenthusiastic about the proposal of an oversight board to see how the money would be distributed. And Representative Drew Darby, Republican of San Angelo, said there was a lot of fear in rural communities that the money could be, in his words, “sucked up” by larger cities.  All those different perspectives on how to move forward to resolve the state’s water issues reminded Representative Darby of the old adage that laws are kind of like sausage. You don’t necessarily want to watch how they’re made.

“Hopefully we’ll make this sausage edible by the end of May,” Darby said. “And that’s often a very troublesome process sometimes.”


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