Senator Ken Armbrister announced today that he will file Senate Bill 3, a bill that will improve the way the state manages its water supply. During the interim, a special investigative committee was formed to analyze the issue of water management and make recommendations on how to preserve water resources. It's a crucial issue, as the state's population is set to rise from 22 million to 40 million people over the next 25 years. SB 3 implements a fifty-year plan to ensure that the state does not lack the water it needs to address economic, ecological and quality of life needs. "If we don't take steps now, to both manage and preserve our precious resources," said Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, "we're not going to have the water resources tomorrow that we need."
In terms of environmental controls, the bill contains provisions to ensure better stewardship of the state's bays and estuaries. "The importance of healthy bay systems in Texas is critical to the environment and to the state's economic growth," said Armbrister. "A healthy Texas coast has a multi-billion-dollar impact on our economy." The bill would improve the freshwater inflow into bays and estuaries to ensure these areas stay within parameters that best serve economic and environmental concerns. The Environmental Flows Commission would analyze this process, relying on recommendations made by a science advisory commission that would use proven scientific methods to ensure statewide consistency and coordination. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) would implement and manage the recommendations of the Flows Commission. In times of drought or other emergency, freshwater inflows would be diverted to serve human needs.
The fifty year state water plan identifies $98 billion in necessary infrastructure construction and repairs, with about $46 of that billion needed for urban upgrades. SB 3 would pay for this, in part, by levying a small fee for water usage exceeding 5,000 gallons per month. Under the bill as drafted, 13 cents would be assessed for every 1,000 gallons used over 5,000. Armbrister said he expects this amount to be modified in committee, but as it stands, the fee would generate about $125 million per year dedicated for water infrastructure improvement.
SB 3 would also seek to standardize water management practices statewide by strengthening oversight for Groundwater Management Areas (GMA). GMA management plans would now have to be approved by both the Texas Water Development Board and a GMA council. These entities would seek to ensure that GMA management plans are supported by sound science and that a consistent statewide water management policy is in place.
SB 3 will likely be filed in the Senate this week and will then head to the Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Senator Armbrister, before it makes its way to the Senate floor.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 5, at 11 a.m.