Achieving the minimum 20 percent conservation and reuse mandate in the SWIFT process in Texas
Harris, Shannon Carrie
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In November 2013, the citizens of Texas approved a new water infrastructure-financing plan called the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT). SWIFT funds will provide low-cost loans for water projects included in the State Water Plan. A few conditions catalyzed this historic legislation, including a year of exceptionally severe drought in 2011, and the 2012 State Water Plan, the first such plan released since 2007. This document assumes one scenario for water planning in Texas in which the population nearly doubles and historic dry periods persist, resulting in an 8.3 million acre feet water shortage. A minimum of 20 percent of the fund must finance conservation and reuse water supply and enhancement methods. These projects must have associated capital costs and be included in the State Water Plan. Conservation strategies often have no capital costs, or if they do, expenses are lower than for other techniques such as desalination. Therefore, this research seeks to discover whether it is possible to meet the 20 percent minimum set-aside. The study focuses mostly on conservation procedures since reuse typically incurs significantly higher costs, and could, theoretically, meet the set-aside alone. Texas water users must think strategically about conservation in order meet the minimum set-aside. In a state with a history of large infrastructure projects, such as 60 years of reservoir construction, planners are no longer in tune with a diverse array of potential projects. Alternative water enhancement techniques not only supply water, but provide benefits to the local ecology and economy. The research also explores alternative water conservation technologies. Texans are fiercely independent, pragmatic, innovative people by nature. The cultural history of the state underscores these facts. The SWIFT fund is a result of creative thinking by planners, legislators, and citizens to alleviate problems before they become serious. That same vision is necessary to inspire synergies between participants using auxiliary water technologies financed through new funding mechanisms resulted from changing economic philosophies. The citizens of the state, and its ecological health, will benefit if they can muster the political will to resourcefully meet the minimum 20 percent conservation and reuse set-aside.