My firm Jackson Walker LLP was a member of the H2O4 Texas Coalition that helped support implementation of the Texas State Water Plan through creation of SWIFT. Administered by the Texas Water Development Board, that fund provides low-interest loans to local and regional governments for the development of water resources and infrastructure. H2O4 Texas made a series of videos about their efforts and were kind enough to mention our involvement.
The Texas Water Development Board has opened the application period for the next round of SWIFT financing. The application period started yesterday, December 1, 2015, and will remain open through February 5, 2016. The application webpage can be found here.
In the first round of SWIFT financing in 2015, the Board provided funds to just over $1 billion in water projects in Texas, with future commitments for an additional $2.9 billion. The geographic distribution of funds can be seen in the charts below. As is apparent, North Texas was the recipient of the largest share of 2015 funds, while the Houston area was the largest recipient of future commitments and overall funding. The two largest projects were:
It is widely agreed that a growing population and economy, combined with current drought conditions and increasing understanding of long-term climate variability, create an urgent need to develop new water supplies in the US. This is especially true in Texas and California, two states where I focus much of my attention. One type of project that always seems to be misunderstood and maligned, however, is interbasin water transfers.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has published an article on potential impacts to the Texas economy from water shortages, aptly named Water Scarcity a Potential Drain on the Texas Economy. Texas is experiencing record dry conditions, which is likely to combine with increasing water demands from growing urban areas to create a potentially volatile situation for future water supplies.
Effective September 1, 2013, the Texas Legislature adopted rules governing the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) pursuant to House Bill 4 (Ritter). Creation and funding of SWIFT requires constitutional amendment through Proposition 6, which will be submitted to Texas voters on November 5, 2013. If Proposition 6 passes, SWIFT would be managed by the new Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), which I described in an earlier post.