|AUSTIN, Texas - In 2060, the Rio Grande Valley will need 609,906 additional acre-feet of water per year in drought conditions.
That would be the equivalent of digging one-foot deep into the football field at McAllen Memorial Stadium and filling the hole with water 609,906 times. To meet this need, the Rio Grande Valley Water Planning Area (Region M) has identified more than $2 billion worth of water projects. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is dedicated to ensuring the Rio Grande Valley has the opportunity to receive financial assistance for these projects.
Texas is a fast-growing state. It is gaining almost 1,000 new people per day, and every new Texan requires water to use in their house, on their landscape, and in the food they consume and the materials they buy. In the Rio Grande Valley, the population is expected to increase by more than 400,000 people by 2020 (since 2010). By 2060, it is expected to increase by more than 2.3 million (since 2010).
Since mid-November, my fellow TWDB Board Members, Kathleen Jackson and Bech Bruun, and I have traveled to Corpus Christi, Lufkin, Amarillo, San Angelo, Waco, Lake Jackson, and Bryan/College Station to discuss the funding opportunities available for water supply projects in those specific areas. Today, I am honored be in McAllen with Senator Chuy Hinojosa and Representative Sergio Munoz, Jr., and in Laredo and El Paso next week, interacting face-to-face with Texans committed to developing a sustainable water supply.
On November 6, the TWDB began accepting applications for projects to be prioritized for funding from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT. Last year, Texas voters approved the creation of SWIFT, which enabled the investment of $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fun for water projects and strategies in the state water plan. The Rio Grande Valley currently has more than 200 eligible water supply projects, six of which are in McAllen and include the expansion of existing groundwater wells, brackish water desalination, and advanced water conservation.
Today, the TWDB is in McAllen to work directly with the organizations interested in financial assistance from SWIFT and to assist with and answer specific questions about the application process. When I was appointed Chairman of the TWDB, my fellow Board Members and I decided to be proactive in our duties. That included traveling across Texas to learn first-hand the specific water needs of people from every corner of the state.
In this area, we’ve witnessed a rising urban population. The way the Rio Grande Valley uses water is changing. By 2060, municipal water demands are projected to increase from approximately 16 to 38 percent of all water use in the region. In addition to the growing population and increasing water demands, this area’s water supply is affected by the failure of Mexico to deliver water to the Rio Grande per the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty. For those in this community that depend on the Rio Grande, this situation directly affects their health and livelihood. Mexico’s lack of compliance is unacceptable, and I am committed to working on this issue until it is resolved.
Texas has experienced population increases and changes since its inception as a state. People are drawn to our thriving economy, the innovative ideas coming from our universities, the variety of cultures embraced in our communities, and the appreciation we have for our neighbors. Even in economic downturns, people have come to Texas. This will not change, and we must be prepared. Without water, none of us will enjoy the many blessings that Texas has to offer.
The Rio Grande Valley Regional Water Planning Group (Region M) has helped the TWDB project future population and water demands through 2060 so that, together, we can develop a sustainable water supply for our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Texans pride themselves on being in the biggest and best state. We are getting bigger, and to get even better, we must embrace our future. Please join us in our efforts to drought-proof Texas.
Carlos Rubinstein is chairman of the Texas Water Development Board.