Grant: House water plan a helpful asset

The director of the local water district expressed enthusiastic approval of a measure which would establish a $2 billion water project fund for Texas communities.Thursday, the Texas House Natural Resources Committee approved a plan that would move the money from the state's Rainy Day Fund and create the State Water Infrastructure Fund of Texas. The fund would provide bond money for new reservoirs, water pipelines and conservation projects.The committee approved the measure unanimously.John Grant, director of the Colorado River Municipal Water District, said the water fund is welcome news to water-starved communities throughout the state.“Absolutely, this is good news,” Grant said. “It will help communities and other entities financially in developing water projects. … This concept takes some money out of the Rainy Day Fund to help communities get their water projects started.”Grant envisions the fund providing low-interest loans to entities seeking money to fund water projects. CRMWD took advantage of a similar program, securing a loan (repayable at 2 percent interest) from the Texas Water Development Board to help finance construction of the raw water treatment plant in Big Spring.Texas needs to spend about $53 billion over the next 50 years to meet the water needs of the growing population, according to the TWDB. About half of that needs to come from the state. Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, said the fund could leverage $27 billion over time.The Texas Senate is working on a similar measure and the two versions of the bill will need to be reconciled.The Nature Conservancy, which creates preserves from private land, praised the measure, calling it "a monumental shift" for the state's future. But a grass-roots group called Environment Texas said House Bill 4 did not dedicate enough money to conservation and would finance some potentially destructive projects."On the one hand, the bill would support a major boost in funding for water conservation and re-use. On the other, the bill directs 80 percent of the funding toward projects that can harm our rivers, streams and climate," Luke Metzger, the group's director, said.The Associated Press contributed to this report.