Perhaps it was appropriate that many Texas voters had to brave a bit of rain this past Tuesday to cast ballots on a double-handful of proposals that ranged from approving school bonds to establishing a permanent funding apparatus for the state’s future water needs. Voters approved all the proposals, including overwhelming support of Proposition 6, the water plan.
With a little creative thinking and suspension of disbelief, one could point to the rain as an omen of better — wetter — days for Texas. But Tuesday’s vote is only a starting point and — if you’ll excuse the pun — a drop in the bucket for what will be needed to provide ample water for the future growth and well-being of Texas’ citizens, businesses and, especially, agriculture.
And Texans — from the metroplexes of Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, to the vast spaces of Far West Texas, the High Plains and the Piney Woods on the Eastern border — must be vigilant to keep legislators and regulators in step with what is fair for all.
One can assume that the big cities will claim the lion’s share. Industry will want a large portion of new water resources as well. And rural Texans will have to scratch and claw to get their due.
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The law does provide incentives to bring water into rural areas and it will be crucial for farmers, ranchers, small towns and businesses to make certain those promises are kept. It will be important for rural Texas to communicate with members of the Texas Water Development board and other agencies to keep them informed of needs and to propose projects that make environmental and economic sense. That process, if it has not already begun, should start now.
We heard from a few Texans who opposed the water plan. Their reasoning, for the most part, was based on sound logic and personal experience with water issues. Some feared that money would speak louder than need, that big industry would usurp the rights of small towns and rural residents. Some feared the loss of valuable farmland as new reservoirs flood fields and pastures. Others simply don’t like and don’t trust government agencies to handle something as important as water.
Those concerns are warranted and underline the need to hold legislators and agencies accountable. Learning as much as possible about how the plan will work is essential. Communicating with those who will make the decisions on which projects are funded is also critical.
Proposition 6 creates a funding apparatus to develop new water resources, to improve existing sources and to incorporate conservation into every aspect of water use. The plan draws $2 billion from the state’s “Rainy Day” fund for seed money that will be used to leverage financing for water projects.
It’s a start toward securing the future well-being for Texas residents, industries, cities and rural communities. Proposition 6 will face obstacles as agencies try to meet the state’s growing demand for water, a demand that is rapidly outpacing supply.
Texas voters have approved the plan; it’s now our job to make certain our leaders make it work for all of us.