New website evaluates environmental impact of projects in State Water Plan

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Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down Ratings Given to Highlighted Projects

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

AUSTIN – Environment Texas Research and Policy Center launched a new website today designed to help educate Texans about the environmental impacts of projects in the State Water Plan. The interactive website – – allows Texans to view a map of the state and learn about highlighted projects in their community. The new website comes as the Texas Water Development Board considers the first round of applications for funding from the new water infrastructure fund approved by voters in November 2013.  
“Texans understand we need to invest in our water future, but they want smart investments that prioritize cutting water waste and avoid damage to our rivers and wildlife,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. “We set up to highlight proposed water projects which responsibly help meet the state’s water needs and those which pose risk to our environment.”
With Texas suffering from historic drought and with population growing rapidly, the State Water Plan is as important as ever. However, Environment Texas Research and Policy Center said the 2012 State Water Plan does not live up to its potential to guide Texas to a sustainable water future. An analysis by the Texas Center for Policy Studies estimates that the plan overestimates water demand in the year 2060 by an incredible 1.1 trillion gallons of water per year. The plan also includes 5 projects – highlighted on the new website – which would cause significant environmental damage to Texas rivers, forests and other sensitive natural areas, while making insufficient use of water efficiency and conservation. If built, these 5 projects would cost taxpayers billions of dollars for projects Texas likely doesn’t need.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center assigned a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” rating for some of the projects in the State Water Plan with either the greatest threat to the environment or the greatest opportunity to conserve water. Projects earning a thumbs up include proposals by the cities of Fort Worth and Bedford to identify and repair leaks in municipal water mains, a water reuse project in San Angelo, and a Rio Grande Valley initiative to line irrigation canals on farms to reduce seepage.
The group gave thumbs down ratings to five projects, including:

  • The proposed Marvin Nichols reservoir in east Texas, which would destroy rare bottomland forests and pristine wetlands, all of which support beavers, river otters and millions of migratory birds
  • A Val Verde County project which could threaten the pristine Devil’s River by pumping groundwater to support fracking operations in west Texas
  • Pumping groundwater from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Bastrop County, which could cause “severe negative impacts to local wells and creeks in eastern Texas counties” as well as reduce critical flows in the Colorado River.   

The group launched the website as the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) reviews the first batch of applications for funding from the new State Water Infrastructure Fund of Texas (SWIFT). TWDB received a total of 48 projects, including 8 which may qualify as conservation and reuse projects. TWDB is making $800 million in loans available this year, with as much as $354 million requested for conservation and reuse. As a result, conservation investments could represent 44 percent of the total. TWDB rules require the board to undertake to apply at least 20 percent of funds for conservation and reuse programs.
Last year, TWDB staff stated they had received more public comments (more than 8000) on the rules governing SWIFT than on any other issue in their history. The vast majority of these comments urged the Board to maximize the investment in conservation and avoid funding projects which would cause significant harm to the state’s natural resources. A 2013 Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report estimated that Texas could save at least 500 billion gallons of water per year through water conservation strategies.