The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) recently approved $1,052,915,000 in financial assistance from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. The funding will be distributed to 10 project sponsors across the state.
- $677,120,000 to the North Texas Municipal Water District (Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Fannin, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, and Rockwall counties) for a water supply project;
- $213,410,000 to the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency for a water supply project to the cities of San Marco, Kyle, Buda and other areas along the I-35 corridor. The goal of the project will be to supply up to 27 million gallons of water per day to high-growth areas along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio. Groundwater permits have been issued to pump the water from the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in Caldwell County. The funding will be supplied in three stages over the next four years. Water should begin flowing to the I-35 corridor by 2023. Design and easement acquisition for the pipeline to transmit the water will begin in 2018;
- $127,900,000 to the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, North Harris County Regional Water Authority, and West Harris County Regional Water Authority for an existing large Houston area water supply project;
- $16,995,000 to the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, Inc. (Williamson and Travis counties) for a water supply project;
- $12 million to the City of Justin (Denton County) for water system improvements;
- $2,750,000 to the City of Corpus Christi (Nueces County) for a seawater desalination project;
- $1,350,000 to the City of Azle (Parker and Tarrant counties) for water system improvements, and;
- $1,390,000 to the City of Springtown (Parker and Wise counties) for a water supply project.
The SWIFT program includes two funds, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT).
“When the 83rd Texas Legislature commenced in January 2013, Texas was in the midst of a severe statewide drought,” said Bech Bruun, chairman of the TWDB. “Recognizing the need to provide affordable financial assistance for water supply projects, legislators passed House Bill 4, House Bill 1025, and Senate Joint Resolution 1.”
HB 4 created SWIFT and SWIRFT, HB 1025 appropriated $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to the SWIFT program where it is managed and invested by the Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company, and SJR 1 called for a constitutional amendment to approve the transfer from the Rainy Day Fund. SJR 1 appeared as Proposition 6 on the November 2013, election ballot and was approved by the Texas voters to create SWIFT and SWIRFT. “The SWIFT program provides important financial incentives to help communities begin implementing their state water plan projects,” said Bruun. “The need for those projects had become more evident during the drought.”
Parts of Texas are still experiencing drought conditions. For instance, as of July 20, 2017, the U.S. Drought Monitor had 8 percent of Texas in drought conditions. “Even though that’s a low percentage compared to some of the numbers we’ve seen in the past, it’s important for Texans to continue to conserve water and prepare for future droughts,” said Bruun.
One way Texas is preparing for future drought conditions is through seawater desalination. “This is still being discussed as a method to help meet the state’s future water demands,” said Bruun. “In the most recent cycle of the SWIFT program, the TWDB committed $2,750,000 to the city of Corpus Christi for the planning stages of a seawater desalination project.”
As of last week, the TWDB has multi-year commitments of $5.6 billion through the SWIRFT. Over $3.3 billion of that amount has been committed to a large regional water supply project in the Houston area. Six different entities have applied for portions of this project and collectively, they are the largest commitment from the SWIFT program, according to Bruun. “There is not a set amount of funding to be committed each year; actual amounts and types of funds are expected to fluctuate between years to obtain this goal. The Board has set a goal of providing approximately $9 billion over the first decade.”
Bruun says that TWDB has received SWIFT program applications for very diverse projects like seawater desalination planning, leak detection systems, water meter replacements, reservoir projects, transmission pipelines, and reclaimed water projects. Funds can be used for planning, design, acquisition and construction costs.
The TWDB assists Texas through other programs besides SWIFT, which is strictly dedicated to projects in the state water plan. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is used to finance wastewater projects in the state. The CWSRF receives federal funding, whereas the SWIFT is a dedicated state account. This week, the city of Farmersville was approved by resolution financial assistance in the amount of $5,840,000 from the CWSRF. The city could save approximately $811,000 over the life of the loan. The funding will be used to finance the planning, acquisition, design and construction costs associated with improvements at its wastewater treatment plant and also be able to design a new wastewater treatment plant.
On July 21, the city of Eastland was approved for $7.6 million in assistance for wastewater system improvements. The assistance consists of a $6,765,000 loan and $834,660 in loan forgiveness from the CWSRF. Among the city’s plans are to implement improvements so that reclaimed treated wastewater can be used for irrigation. The city will also be using the money to finance the planning, design and construction of wastewater system improvements.
The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is another program that is similar to the CWSRF but is used to facilitate compliance with federal drinking water standards. The TWDB also has a variety of other programs to finance water, wastewater, and agricultural conservation projects.