Eric Johnson: Water main breaks remind us what’s at stake
This November Texas will vote on nine more of the endless proposed amendments to the state Constitution. Only one of these has gotten much attention. That is number six, which deals with water. On July 8 the only local daily paper we've got ran an article by State Representative Eric Johnson (co-author of this one). That is unfortunately now behind their subscriber wall. His office has helpfully retrieved the text and sent it to me:
Water main breaks in our city have been making headlines. Dallas residents have been met with news of major water mains bursting and flooding city streets on at least four occasions in recent weeks.
Dallas hasn’t been alone in this problem; Anna, just north of McKinney, was left without running water for 16 hours June 25 after a major water main ruptured.
Considering the sheer number of water mains in Dallas (nearly 5,000 miles total) and the harsh temperatures they are exposed to during the summer months, the occasional water main break is inevitable.
However, water main breaks on the large scale that we’ve been seeing — those that spill thousands of gallons of water onto city streets — are a visual representation of what water means to our state and what could happen if we fail to secure an adequate water supply for the future.
The Texas Water Development Board estimates that by 2060, the population of Texas will grow by 80 percent, from 25 million to more than 46 million. And if nothing is done, our water supply will simply not be able to keep up with demand.
Our taps won’t run dry tomorrow or next week or next month. But we must remember that water is a finite resource, and as our population grows at an unprecedented rate, we must be proactive in order to ensure that the water needs of all Texans are met.
In November, Texas voters will be asked to make an important choice about the future of the state’s water supply.
During this year’s legislative session, my fellow state legislators and I passed a series of bills designed to ensure that future generations of Texans will have the water they need.
I was a joint author of one of the most important components of this legislative package: HB 4. This bill put into place an important mechanism for financing the State Water Plan, which is key to securing our state’s water future.
The State Water Plan details strategies designed by each of the state’s 16 regional water planning groups to ensure an adequate water supply for decades. However, in order to finance the State Water Plan, a significant investment from the state is needed.
HB 1025, a supplemental appropriations bill, also passed during this year’s legislative session. It includes a provision that would make a one-time $2 billion investment from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly referred to as the rainy day fund, to get the ball rolling on vital water infrastructure projects around the state.
However, this appropriation is contingent upon the passage of another key component of the aforementioned legislative package: Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would amend the Texas Constitution to allow for the transfer of funds contemplated by HB 1025.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 passed both the House and the Senate with broad support. Because it proposes a constitutional amendment, however, it must by approved by voters before it can take effect. The passage of this constitutional amendment is crucial; without it, the State Water Plan is just a bunch of ideas.
While municipal water mains and their maintenance would not be covered under the latest version of the State Water Plan, their breakage is indicative of a larger problem: the aging and overall inadequacy of our state’s water infrastructure.
Watching these busted mains flood our streets with perfectly good water should serve as a vivid visual reminder that Texas needs greater investment in its water infrastructure.
With this in mind, I hope that every one of you will go to the ballot box in November and vote to secure our state’s water future for our children and grandchildren. They’re counting on us.
State Rep. Eric Johnson can be reached at Eric.Johnson@house.state.tx.us.
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