Combs offers ideas to meet water needs

01/16/2014 6:24 PM

01/16/2014 6:26 PM

Comptroller Susan Combs may not be planning to be in her current job when the Legislature meets next year (she’s not running for re-election), but she’s already laid out a few things she says should be on the agenda.

They focus on one topic: water. Specifically, she proposes steps lawmakers should take to help the state’s growing population and booming economy keep up with its “increasingly unquenchable demand for water.”

Combs issued a report this week, “Going Deeper for the Solution.”

Texas has always been prone to cycles of drought, the report points out. The one that hit the state in 2011 was the worst one-year drought since 1895, costing agricultural interests alone nearly $7.6 billion, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Fortunately, Texans seem to grasp the seriousness of the problem. In November, voters approved moving $2 billion from the state’s rainy-day savings account (which is growing fast of late because of increased oil and gas tax revenue) to assist in implementing projects in the official State Water Plan.

Combs says that’s “a positive step toward assuring our water supplies — but it’s only a step.”

She wants to see “multifaceted strategies including increased conservation efforts and innovative technologies” used in attacking the state’s water problems. She listed three recommendations for the Legislature:

• Grants to water authorities and major water users for conservation measures. She wants to see $25 million set aside for a five-year grant program, which could finance efforts such as water reuse and reductions in water loss due to infrastructure improvements.
• State funding for demonstration projects. These projects would help water planners determine the costs and benefits of using new technologies.
• Prizes for successful achievements in innovative technology. Combs suggests $25 million in prizes for “innovations with direct and demonstrable commercial applications in Texas.”

All of these are reasonable recommendations. Nobody knows whether they are the best things for the Legislature to approve a year from now.

Maybe the best thing about them is they constitute a challenge to legislators and other state officials to come up with their own ideas for meeting the state’s water needs.

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