Historic bill addressing water needs wins final legislative approval in both Chambers
AUSTIN, TX - This session, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. offered several bills addressing water needs, particularly Senate Bill 1902, landmark legislation that created the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority (RGRWA) to serve the water interests of communities along the Rio Grande for the first time in history.
The Authority would assist and serve six counties below the Amistad Reservoir--Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Zapata and Webb--with water conservation and management activities on a regional basis. Fifteen members would comprise the Authority, with nine appointed by the Governor, six directors who represent irrigation districts, a public member, one who represents water utilities, and one who represents municipalities. Each of the six county commissioners court would also appoint a director. The Rio Grande is the only major water basin in Texas without a river authority, but has the greatest water-related problems in the nation. The Authority can jointly work with greater clout to attract federal and state grants for water projects, such as a desalination plant.
SB 721 creates the Cameron-Hidalgo-Willacy Regional Water Authority, which combines the Olmito Water Supply Corporation, the East Rio Hondo Supply Corporation, the North Alamo Water Supply Corporation and the Arroyo Water Supply Corporation. This bill allows the Cameron-Hidalgo-Willacy Regional Water Authority to issue tax exempt bonds that would finance the creation of infrastructure for delivery of water and the creation of a brackish groundwater desalination plant. Such a project will allow the Authority to rely on other sources of water, which is currently only the Rio Grande.
HB 2660 (by Rep. Robert Puente) was carried by Sen. Lucio to address the lack of a quantifiable water conservation goal and time frame for reaching one among municipal water suppliers. This bill amends the Texas Water Code regarding all water conservation plans required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)--applicants for new or amended water rights--and the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)--applicants for financial assistance programs--to include specific, quantified targets for water savings (including goals for water loss and for municipal use in gallons per capita per day).
HB 2663 (by Rep. Robert Puente) was also sponsored by Sen. Lucio and amends the Texas Water Code to require that all drought contingency plans required by the TCEQ include specific, quantified targets for water use reductions to be achieved during periods of water shortages and drought. The bill also requires that TCEQ and TWDB identify quantified target goals for drought contingency plans that wholesale and retail public water suppliers, irrigation districts and others may use as guidelines.