Water Development Board Seeks Comments on Water Funding
In 2013, the passage of H.B. 4 and S.J.R. 1 created the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) to help finance projects in the state water plan and to provide ongoing state financial assistance for water suppliers.
H.B. 4 requires that the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) adopt rules for the use of SWIFT funds. The TWDB recently authorized the publication of proposed rules relating to the disbursement of SWIFT funds. (The rules are scheduled to be published in the July 11, 2014, edition of the Texas Register.)
Prior to drafting the proposed rules, the TWDB held two informal stakeholder meetings in Austin and four board meetings around the state during which interested parties were given the opportunity to provide public comments. After formal publication in the Texas Register, the TWDB will conduct additional, formal work sessions around the state to accept public comments. Those work sessions are scheduled for:
- July 24, 2014, in San Antonio;
- August 13, 2014, in San Angelo; and
- August 21, 2014, in Arlington.
More information on the location and time will be available on the TWDB’s website at http://www.twdb.texas.gov.
The following are key provisions of the proposed rules that are of interest to cities:
- H.B. 4 requires that at least 10 percent of SWIFT funds be set aside for projects benefitting rural political subdivisions and agricultural water conservation. The proposed rules use the definition of “rural political subdivision” that is contained in Section 15.992 of the Water Code, which provides that a city with a service area of 10,000 or less in population is considered a rural political subdivision.
- H.B. 4 also requires that at least 20 percent of SWIFT funds support projects for water conservation and resuse. The definitioin of "water conservation" in the proposed rules was taken from Chapter 15 of the Water Code: “[T]hose practices, techniques, and technologies that will reduce the consumption of water, reduce the loss or waste of water, improve the efficiency in the use of water, or increase the recycling and reuse of water so that a water supply is made available for future or alternative uses.”
- The proposed rules establish a prioritization system for projects. The executive administrator will prioritize applications for funding based on a point system. The maximum number of points an application can receive is 50 points. A project will earn points based on: (1) whether the population served is large, with greater populations served receiving more points; (2) whether the project serves a diverse urban and rural population; (3) whether the project serves additional entities in the region; and (4) whether the project meets a high percentage of the water supply needs of users, with a higher percentage of need met receiving more points.
- SWIFT funds will be available for the planning and design phase of a project, along with funding the construction of the project.
- The proposed rules do not include a rule related to the prioritization of projects by the regional water planning groups. The TWDB intentionally left this out of the proposed rules to allow more flexibility for the regional planning groups.
League staff has been monitoring this process and will continue to do so. Interested cities should participate in the process now.
Once the draft rules are published in the Texas Register, the formal comment period is officially open and will continue until September 1, 2014. Interested parties can view the rules and submit comments on the TWDB website at http://www.twdb.texas.gov or by emailing comments to email@example.com.