State funding flows in for water plans

Staff Report

 

When regional leaders meet to talk about water next week, they will find themselves knee deep in a new flow of money intended to help them quench a thirsty future for south-central Texas. 

The Texas Water Development Board awarded up to $7.49 million in low-interest loans to support the first phase of a project designed to address long-term water needs for a pioneering partnership between San Marcos, Kyle, Buda and the Canyon Regional Water Authority. 

The project, ranked near the top of state priorities, is among 21 projects to be funded using State Water Implementation Fund of Texas (SWIFT) monies approved by Texas voters in 2013. SWIFT money awarded to the partnership, known as Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA), will be used to fund the first phase of a project to bring water from the Carrizo Wilcox aquifer east of Lockhart to serve communities along the I-35 corridor in at least four counties.

HCPUA board members include city representatives from Kyle, Buda, and San Marcos, plus managers and board members from several of the special utility districts making up the Canyon Regional Water Authority, including the Crystal Clear, County Line and Green Valley special utility districts.  

“It’s nice to get the validation from state experts, essentially saying our project is one of the best,” said Kyle mayor pro tem David Wilson, who chairs the HCPUA board. “But this award has real practical effects, too. It moves the project forward. It saves money for local water rate payers. It rewards and reinforces our effort to plan together, and work together, as a region – and to think long term about our needs for water.” 

“This is what the legislature had in mind when we put SWIFT funding on the ballot in 2013,” said State Rep. Jason Isaac, who represents Hays and Blanco counties. “I’m really pleased that communities in my district are among the leaders in figuring out how to use these funds in a way that will be a model for others.” 

Isaac noted that water issues are growing more contentious in Texas, but that water doesn’t have to be fought over. “This is a great example, because this HCPUA project represents communities working together, across jurisdictional lines, to find win-win solutions that address our common water needs as we grow.” 

HCPUA members started discussing cooperative efforts more than a decade ago, coming together as a formal organization – among the first of its kind – in 2007. After studies on where and how to best obtain water, in late 2012 the HCPUA finalized permits to withdraw water from the Carrizo Wilcox aquifer. The HCPUA has leased water rights from willing land owners, providing an income source for many rural farmers and ranchers, and has been careful to meet regulations of the governing groundwater district where its wells will be located. 

HCPUA members are putting into place joint agreements to share water until the pipeline is built and to cooperate on further water conservation measures that will postpone the need for the pipeline expense, said the board’s vice chairman, John Thomaides of the San Marcos city council. 

“I think we’re all serious about planning for our water future,” said Thomaides.

HCPUA Executive Director Graham Moore noted the SWIFT money was loaned in two different series, a 20-year term for Canyon Regional Water Authority and a 30-year term for Kyle. “Due to the unique nature of the funding, the agency was able to secure loan rates of 1.97% for the 20-year note and 2.88% for the 30-year note, which means a savings of up to $900,000 over the life of the loans versus financing on the open market,” said Moore.  

Moore said the state loan funding, along with cash funding of $4.51 million from San Marcos and Buda, will be utilized to design and construct a pipeline and pump station that will interconnect the Kyle and Buda water systems. 

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