If there's any lesson from this terrible drought, it's that nothing is more important to Texas than a clean, reliable water supply. And on November 8, you'll have the chance to protect it.
Two propositions up for a vote on November's state constitutional election ballot would amend the Texas Constitution to help protect water supplies for Texans, our children, and future generations.
Proposition 2 would allow the state to issue bonds that will provide money to partner with cities, counties and other local entities to create water, sewer and flood control projects. The total amount of bonds could not exceed $6 billion outstanding at any time.
And Proposition 8 would enact the law we passed in the recent legislative session encouraging landowners to manage their property in a way that conserves water and improves water quality.
Both of these initiatives were approved by the Legislature with considerable bipartisan support. And they have been endorsed by a wide range of business, environmental and agricultural groups - all of them focused on ensuring a reliable supply of clean water for our children and grandchildren.
Regarding Proposition 2: Since 1957, legislators and voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing the Texas Water Development Board to issue up to $4.23 billion in bonds to make loans that help finance water-related projects. The Water Development Board needs the authority to issue more bonds if it's going to continue working to meet Texans' water needs.
This bond program is designed to be self-supporting. The Water Development Board plans to use these funds to create a self-supporting loan program, with repayments of the loans paying for the bonds.
Proposition 8 will create Texas' first statewide water conservation mechanism, using what's known as an agricultural property valuation to encourage land-management practices that protect water quality and increase the supply in aquifers, river basins, and tributaries.
Many rural property owners in Texas already have their land appraised using an agricultural valuation, generally resulting in a lower property tax bill. Over the years, Texas has used this agricultural valuation to encourage other activities on rural property, such as those that help wildlife. With Proposition 8, landowners could receive this valuation by controlling erosion, conserving well water, and taking other steps to improve water quality and increase the water supply.
This incentive would apply only to landowners who already qualify for the agricultural valuation, meaning Proposition 8 will help meet the state's needs without costing the state money. It will provide a market-friendly tool to fortify the water supply by encouraging landowners to be good stewards.
More than 90 percent of Texas is in some form of moderate to severe drought. Some forecasters are predicting it could actually get worse.
Texas has a long-range plan meant to meet our needs for 50 years, though the legislature has yet to actually fund it. Propositions 2 and 8 will help meet the plan, both by providing for new water projects and helping achieve the state's conservation goals.
But beyond even that, the state simply needs to get serious about meeting its water needs - both for the people, farms, ranches and businesses that are already here, and especially for future generations of Texans.
Proposition 2 and Proposition 8 will help jumpstart that process. We urge you to vote "yes" on both of them on November 8.
Kirk Watson, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio, Jr. are members of the Texas State Senate. Watson authored the water stewardship legislation that Proposition 8 would enact, and Hinojosa authored the joint resolution allowing for Proposition 2. Lucio strongly supported both initiatives.