AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Water Development Board is currently taking comment on part of the $2.9 billion coming to Texas’ water infrastructure through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding. That will be spread over the next 5 years. The comment period is for $750 million available through the State Revolving Funds.
This comes as the majority of Central Texas is under either extreme or severe drought conditions.
The state has released its draft of intended use for clean water and drinking water for Fiscal Year 2023, outlining different projects the state could funnel grant money to next year.
“Both these two programs will ultimately provide funding for our customers, utilities across the state for both safe drinking water as well as keeping the streams and water bodies clean,” TWDB Director of Program Administration & Reporting Mark Wyatt explained Wednesday.
These improvements are necessary not only to upgrade aging infrastructure but also to adjust for growth across the state.
“Clearly, with the need to maintain the compliance to keep up with the standards as areas grow, the capacity and their treatment systems need to keep up both with the drinking water and then the clean water systems. So, it’s an ongoing effort,” Wyatt said.
In economically disadvantaged communities, the funds will allow the state to foot 70% of the bill for water infrastructure projects.
“Last year, what we had is we had for the disadvantaged communities based on their income levels and the rates that they would be required to pay 30%, 50% and 70%. This year, we raised everybody to 70%,” Wyatt said.
“If the project came out as, we’ll just make up one $10 million, the $7 million would be the free portion, and the 3 million would be the portion that would be a loan. Now, again, remember the loans that we provide under both of these programs are considerably subsidized, whether it’s 40%, or 30%, depending on the category,” he continued.
However, the National Wildlife Federation told the board during Wednesday’s hearing that it wants that rate to be higher.
“We are really advocating for 100% grants for communities that are most disadvantaged, that are most in need of water infrastructure. This will really assure that communities that have not been able to historically access these funds will be able to receive [State Revolving Fund] funding if they cannot repay any loan portion,” Danielle Goshen, a policy specialist under the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program, explained Wednesday.
But Wyatt said that would come with a tradeoff.
“70% is certainly a very high and attractive amount. One has to consider though–the more you allocate to, and the higher the percentage, the fewer we can fund,” Wyatt said.
The board will accept public comment through August 20. Then, the board will weigh those recommendations and vote on the final plan before the end of the calendar year.
The board’s outlook on its future water usage plan is outlined below, courtesy of TWDB: