Texas lawmakers sound alarm on future of water in the state, their efforts to keep faucets running

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Friday, February 24, 2023
Future of water in Texas so critical, Dems, Republicans form caucus
Infrastructure impacts all of us. This has become a huge topic in Austin, as lawmakers work on how to divvy a nearly $33 million surplus.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas is popular. So much so, that more than 1,000 people move into the Lone Star State every day. But as Palestine state Rep. Cody Harris told ABC13, they don't bring water with them.

"I think we are always in a position where we need to be ready for the next water crisis," Harris said.

And Texas is almost always on the verge of the next water crisis, given that we live in a drought-prone state.

"Do we have enough water supplies for a growing state that is prone to being afflicted by drought?" Senior Policy Advisor Jeremy Mazur with the Think Tank Texas 2036 said. "The answer is that we're working on it."

We have seen the problems with aging infrastructure and drought. In June, Odessa was without water for two days after a water main break. In November, Houston was under a boil water notice after a treatment facility's power failed and pressure dropped.

"We need to have a water infrastructure system prepared to handle that growth and with the aging infrastructure as well," State Rep. Jacey Jetton, a Republican House member from Fort Bend County, said. "We want to make sure we are continuing to improve upon that."

The push for clean and accessible water and better infrastructure has trickled all the way to the State Capitol in Austin, with the first-ever water caucus. What began with just 38 members in the Texas House is now up to more than 70 and includes both Republicans and Democrats. Sarah Schlessinger is the CEO of the Texas Water Foundation, a nonprofit water policy organization that put together the caucus.

"Texas has always been and will always be a high water risk state," Schlessinger said. "Water, while it is bipartisan, it is very complex. It's very technical. It's very nuanced. And it tends to be very location specific, so it makes it very hard for the legislature as a whole to be up to speed on these critical infrastructure investment needs."

The hope is the bipartisan issue helps the state stay out in front of the issue rather than trying to play catch up.

"Water is a key issue across the state of Texas," Erin Zwiener, a member of the caucus, said. "We haven't invested enough in either infrastructure or conservation. I am hoping the water caucus can catalyze that investment."

And along with representatives Harris and Jetton, so is Houston State Rep. Armando Walle.

"Water issues, infrastructure issues, are the lifeblood of our economy," he said.

There are discussions about putting at least $3 billion toward the issue this session. It's a start, but it is just as they say: a drop in the bucket. This is why the caucus could be so critical in raising awareness and applying money to a problem that only grows as Texas does.

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