In 2023, the Texas Legislature set aside $1 billion in funding for local water projects. Now, several Lake Travis-area cities have signed a petition asking the state to consider giving that money to small communities strained by rapidly growing metros nearby.

The background

The Texas Water Fund was created to address ongoing water supply issues throughout the state due to persistent drought conditions and population growth, with an emphasis on supporting rural communities.

The Texas Water Development Board is in charge of determining how to best distribute the funding through their existing grant programs and the New Water Supply for Texas Fund, which will allocate at least $250 million to creating new water supply sources.

Until April 30, Texans have been asked to give their feedback about how the TWF should be allocated. In March, Lago Vista City Council member Shane Saum created a petition to do exactly that.

The letter asks that the TWDB include scoring criteria, which accounts for small cities directly outside of large, rapidly growing metros like Austin.

So far, Marble Falls, Jonestown, Johnson City, Volente and Rollingwood have agreed to join his efforts.

The impact

According to 2023 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Austin was among the top 10 fastest growing metro areas in the U.S.

Saum said this rapid growth has spread into neighboring cities such as Lago Vista, putting pressure on the local water supply systems.

"We are almost at 80% capacity for both our waste and our drinking water, which is not a good position to be in," Saum said. "We're not getting any commercial businesses [coming in], where you would see an increase in sales tax from them. We can't help pay for new infrastructure without having to go out for bonds."

Saum said one of the largest barriers to Lago Vista qualifying for financial assistance from the TWDB in the past has been demonstrating economic disadvantage.

While the TWDB has some programs geared specifically toward economically disadvantaged communities, Media and Public Relations Specialist Emma Rogers said that the rules and scoring criteria for the TWF has not yet been decided.

Rogers said the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas program provides low-cost financing often suited for fast-growing communities to develop water supplies, and funding from the TWF may be transferred to the SWIFT program.

What's next?

By the summer, the TWDB will prepare rules, and in some cases an Intended Use Plan that outlines eligibility, criteria and scoring for each TWDB financial assistance program that is eligible to receive funds from the TWF, Rogers said.

In the meantime, Saum said he is still reaching out to other municipalities for petition support.

Officials in both Lakeway and Bee Cave have declined to sign the letter, not feeling it was relevant to their water concerns.

Quote of note

"Especially with the drought, when everyone is pulling from Lake Travis for drinking water, we should really be thinking about partnering together a lot more to solve these problems," Saum said.