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2013-03-21

Texas Water: create, conserve & reuse Q&A with Senator Troy Fraser

Special to the Courier

(Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a Q&A by State Senator Troy Fraser, who represents the interests of Bandera County in Austin.)

In Agriculture News, published by the Texas Farm Bureau, State Senator Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, talks about the future of water in Texas and what might happen regarding this precious resource in the 83rd Legislative Session in this exclusive Q&A.
The recent drought years have brought home the importance of water to many in the Lone Star State. Water supplies continue to be short as rains have failed to fill reservoirs and top off aquifers. Add to the mix a $53 billion estimate by the Texas Water Development Board to fund water sources and infrastructure to meet the needs of a population that is expected to double in the next 50 years.
Enter Fraser, author of SB 332, the landmark legislation that was signed into law in 2011 that gives property owners a constitutionally protected right to the water beneath their land. As chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Fraser will be a huge player in the 83rd Legislative Session. Agriculture News asked him to look in his crystal ball to see what might happen in this exclusive Q&A.
• Water has been top of mind during this legislative session. Why has water taken a prominent role among the issues?
"I think the drought in 2011 has really made an impact on state leaders. We recognized that our population was growing and our long-term solutions for water supply weren't addressing that growing demand. And, weather patterns were working against us. We are using water faster than it rains.
"Plus, we want to continue the strong economic growth we've seen. We need to ensure that when businesses look to relocate to Texas, our infrastructure is strong and that we have a plan for the future."
• What is Texas' greatest challenge in terms of our current and future water needs?
"One of our greatest challenges is educating people and businesses about the importance of conserving water. It is hard for people to understand that water is limited when it is always available when they turn on the tap. We have several water-intensive industries in the state that especially need to start thinking about how they can reuse and recycle the water that they use."
• You have introduced three bills in the Texas Senate - SB 4, SB 22 and SB 235 - regarding our state's water resources. How would these three bills address Texas' growing needs?
"The three bills I introduced present a three-pronged attack to tackle the state's water needs. The bills would provide a $2 billion infusion of additional funding for a revolving loan program, restructure the Texas Water Development Board to give them authority to prioritize projects, and authorize local entities to form regional partnerships to solve regional water needs.
"This package of bills will help the state and local entities to not only create new water but to work harder to reuse and conserve the water we already have."
• How much money is needed to fund projects proposed in the state water plan? From where would the money come?
"The 2012 State Water Plan reported that water providers said they would need $26.9 billion in state assistance for water projects over the next 50 years. The Texas Water Development Board has run several models showing how much it would take to fund all 500-plus projects in the State Water Plan over the course of several decades.