Sen. Perry calls to invest $2 billion in state’s aging water systems

AUSTIN, Texas (KCBD) – Water industry leaders and state lawmakers rubbed elbows at this year’s Water for Texas conference Thursday, discussing policies and practices that could help preserve, repair, and grow Texas’ strained and aging water infrastructure and its gradually dwindling water sources.

Last year, there were more than three thousand boil water notices issued in Texas, indicating doubt in a region’s water quality due to such incidents as breaks or unsafe drops in pressure that can lead to contamination. A 30″ line break and a problem at its treatment center at the beginning of this year left the Midland-Odessa metro area without clean water for days.

RELATED: Midland is the latest Texas city to issue a boil-water notice

That same year brought a historic drought period. The state’s water agencies are currently measuring the aquifer and surface water levels throughout our area, after a 2022 report showed water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer had dropped nearly eight inches the year before.

RELATED: 2022 measurements show groundwater level declines in High Plains Water District

This week’s conference, hosted by the Texas Water Development Board, brought more than 600 attendees under one roof to exchange ideas and policy points that could help Texas preserve this most crucial resource.

Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who chairs the upper chamber’s Water, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee, said the state should invest some of its historic windfall projections in the 2024-25 biennium in repairing the state’s strained water systems.

“It was $190 billion up to a possible $400 billion problem,” Sen. Perry said Thursday. “It’s scattered out amongst all the municipal water distribution systems and rural water systems.”

Sen. Perry is proposing a $2 billion appropriation for more grants and loans that would fund rural and mid-level infrastructure repair and replacement projects through the Water Development Board. He said that investment would also help municipalities and counties afford other loans or programs that would compensate for a smaller or less-affluent tax base.

“That’s how you start your water supply conversation,” he said, “keep what you got longer and then go out and develop things that you haven’t yet.”

Some other state lawmakers who attended the conference included the newly formed House Water Caucus, comprised of 38 House members including Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), which is confident this is the session for major investment.

“We happen to have a fairly good budget situation this time,” founder Rep. Tracy King (D-Laredo) said, “so I think it’s time to bring all those things together and direct a significant amount of funding towards the aging infrastructure in the state of Texas.”

“I think we have buy-in from both chambers,” member Rep. Cody Harris (R-Jacksonville) said. “I know that the speaker is wholly committed to infrastructure and water policy, water security, moving forward. I think now is the perfect time.”