Water News: Water Explorer website released, dryness and fire risk in West Texas, water project updates

Texans have a new online resource for learning about their water resources: an interactive site called the Texas Water Explorer. The site, designed by the Nature Conservancy with the help of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, contains interactive maps to help visitors learn about the water quantity and quality, ecosystem health, water conservation strategies, and water regulations across the state. The Texas Water Explorer is designed to be a resource for policymakers, planners, scientists, and the public, and can be found here.


Regions A & O - While a strong El Nino has helped bring many parts of the state out of chronic drought-at least for the time being-the wet weather has not been equally distributed across the state. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the High Plains and Panhandle regions are abnormally dry, with a few counties in a state of drought already. 

A scientist from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension called it a "tale of two compass points," referring to the fact that while the eastern part of the state has seen the second wettest start to the year on record, the western portion has had one of the driest. The drought conditions, combined with high winds, have led to increased fire danger for the area as well. You can read more on the story here.


Region K - Earlier this year, Austin's water utility submitted an initial application for low-interest loans from the State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT). This month, Austin Water will finish the process. The $80 million in loans will be used to implement smart water meters in the city of Austin. Smart water meters transmit usage information electronically, eliminating the need for manual meter reading, which currently costs the City of Austin approximately $3.6 million per year. 

Smart meters also provide real-time usage information to customers, which can give early indication of unusually high water use and help customers identify ways to conserve water before they are hit with a high bill. The city is also applying for $87 million for improvements to its wastewater treatment plants. You can read more on these initiatives here.



Region L - The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) decided this month on two applications relating to the 142 mile-long Vista Ridge pipeline, which would deliver over 50,000 acre-feet of water per year to the city of San Antonio. The two loans total almost one billion dollars: the first loan, totaling $127 million, would fund the construction of larger pipes and storage to accommodate the increased supplies, and received approval by the TWDB. The second, which would fund construction of the pipeline itself, was for $855 million, and was denied. 

The pipeline project remains controversial in the San Antonio area, and critics have argued that approval of the first loan puts the cart before the horse. With the departure earlier this year of the project's original funder, Spanish consortium Abengoa, and the denial of the SWIFT funding for the construction project, the pipeline's future is very much up in the air. You can read more on the story here.


Source: The Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy is a faith-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing theologically grounded public policy analysis to people of faith and other Texans. The Center is the research and education arm of Texas Impact, the state's oldest and largest interfaith legislative network.