Water has always shaped Texas. Even before it was Texas, water marked where civilizations settled. In the 17th century, water determined where missions and trade routes were established. Today, it dictates the location of semiconductor plants and the growth of our largest urban expanses. After 400 years, we are still working on how to best allocate and invest in our most precious resource. Our cities, industries, and ecosystems thrive or crumble based on its availability.

Fortunately, Texans have historically voted in favor of investment in water infrastructure. From dedicating state tax dollars to agriculture conservation and sewer treatment upgrades, voters have supported 12 of the 14 statewide propositions to invest in water since the 1950s. 

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel, Courtesy of Texas Water Foundation

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This fall, Texans will be presented with another historic opportunity to invest in Texas’ future with Proposition 6 and the creation of the new Texas Water Fund. If approved, a $1 billion appropriation will be unlocked for loans and grants to finance water supply development, infrastructure repair, water conservation projects, and water awareness. It would be the largest single state dollar investment in Texas water since voters approved $2 billion in 2013.

Since 1957 and the creation of the Texas Water Development Board, Texas politicians have favored using constitutional amendments to ask voters to weigh in on investment in water. Just fifteen days after Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, Proposition 2 was on the ballot. It was a moon shot of its own to rid the entire state of fear from drought once and for all. 

“To delay the full development of our water resources will place a burden upon the future of Texas from which it might never recover,” wrote the members of the Texas Water Development Board to the people of Texas in support of the idea.

Lake Nueces, Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel, Courtesy of Texas Water Foundation

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The pitch was for a $3.5 billion bond package to help fund a canal from the Lower Mississippi that would deliver water to New Mexico and North Texas. If it did not pass, the boosters claimed Texas would run out of water by 1985. 

Texans almost approved it. Votes in favor were at 49.5%, and votes against at 50.5%. It turned out, taking on massive debt and taking water from states hundreds of miles away was not the solution Texans were looking for.

Texas did not run out of water in 1985. Instead, Texas politicians, engineers, conservationists, planners, and the general public rallied around a new approach to addressing  Texas’ water challenges.

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel, Courtesy of Texas Water Foundation

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Water planning was entirely restructured. The top down central planning effort was replaced with a bottom up, regional approach. Developing local water sources, conservation, and more efficient irrigation practices became the go-to tools for making the most of the limited supply. But, as the climate changes and population grows, the challenge of balancing our water supply and demand has become  increasingly difficult. More recently, repairing and replacing aging and deteriorating infrastructure has become a top priority.

Proposition 6 proposes putting an additional $1 billion towards investment in water infrastructure, led by the Texas Water Development Board. The funds will serve a broad range of water needs, including developing new supplies, repairing and replacing existing infrastructure, reducing water loss, technical assistance, education, and meeting rural community needs.

Once again, Texans will have a say in that investment. A poll recently conducted by Texas 2036 indicates that 74% of voters would approve the creation of the Texas Water Fund through Proposition 6 as a part of the state’s water strategy.

Llano River, Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel, Courtesy of Texas Water Foundation

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Unfortunately, these funds are only a drop in the bucket to help solve our water challenges. The 2022 State Water Plan estimates it will cost an additional $80 billion to meet the water supply demands by 2070. Still, these funds are a crucial step in the right direction.

With the fate of our water future once again in the hands of voters, it is now more important than ever for Texans to care about and be informed about the state of water in Texas. Research has indicated in the past that only 28% of Texans say they “definitely know” the natural source of their drinking water. More recently, Texas Runs on Water® has learned that over 30% of Texans do not consider Texas’ water “their problem”. 

Making better decisions about how we manage, allocate, and invest in water starts with awareness of the role it plays in our daily lives. Learn more about our statewide water campaign at TexasRunsonWater.org.

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel, Courtesy of Texas Water Foundation

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