We love Texas and its extraordinary diversity of humans, habitat, and wildlife. Texas has fishing, golf, nature preserves, a vibrant economy, and an excellent educational system.

    Most people don’t realize that water fuels many things we love about Texas, including power generation, manufacturing, and crop irrigation. Drinking water is vital and Texans need lots of it. Water demand is increasing as the population and economy grow.

    The Problem with the Texas State Water Plan

    Texas has a State Water Plan. The state is a nationally recognized leader in alternative water supply development and augmentation. The state has invested in new water supplies and getting that water to where it is needed. All these measures are being complicated by rapid population growth, a decrease in existing water supplies and drought.

    The Lone Star state clearly wants to avoid the water shortages that have impacted Jackson MS, Flint MI, and other U.S. cities that failed to plan and invest in reliable, resilient water systems that deliver quality water.

    Planning and conservation plans need to be reviewed and adjusted. Circumstances have changed. An unprecedented 23-year drought has left the entire state with less water to allocate. Now is the time for state and local governments to obtain funding and advance their much-needed water infrastructure needs with an eye to the future. The keys to funding are collaboration and cooperation.

    Carlos Rubinstein on Water Planning

    New & Unmet Efforts

     

    Carlos Rubinstein, Principal, RSH2O, talks to the Texas House Natural Resources Committee about groundwater. Carlos is former, former Chair of the Texas Water Development Board, Former Commissioner Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, former Rio Grande Watermaster, former City Manager of Brownsville, TX. He’s working with Anser Advisory to help Texas identify and develop sustainable water supplies.

    Competing for Investment Dollars

    In the good old days, any water utility could try to get additional funding from the next higher level of government to reduce burden on ratepayers. Of course, the money gained was tax dollars, just generally from other taxpayers. Still, there was money, if not a lot of it.

    In that competition, big utilities held a distinct advantage. They served more people, had higher profile elected representatives and generally, matching dollars or other benefits.

    But like the current drought that has dramatically impacted Western water politics, big utilities don’t necessarily have the advantage. Today, developing new water supplies and supporting infrastructure takes a long time and is expensive. No utility director wants to leave customers reeling from rate shock caused by the jarring increase in the cost of water.

    Working together is key to funding

    Cooperation, not competition, are the buzzwords of this era of federal funding. Small, rural, and indigenous water suppliers not only have set-aside funding, when working together, they can build bigger and better projects that serve regional needs.

    The Lone Star state has very attractive funding options:

    • The State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) has resulted in commitments of over $9 billion to fund implementation of recommended water management strategy projects.
    • The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund provides low-cost financial assistance for planning, acquisition, design, and construction of water infrastructure.
    • The Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) provides drinking water and wastewater treatment to Texas residents previously without service and improves existing utility systems that do not meet minimum state standards.
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    Making less water work for more people

    The solution is figuring out how to make less water serve more people. It’s about identifying the available sources while ensuring that our use of them doesn’t harm our quality of life. That is, we must balance water supply development with environmental protection. A single utility serving the needs of customers is one thing. A collaborative utility serving the needs of many small communities is another. Both are necessary to ensure equitable access to funding and water without overly burdening the customers.

    Water Infrastructure

    The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure and Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) both provide funding for water infrastructure from facilities and technology upgrades to water supply development and much more. The ARPA funds were distributed directly to local and state coffers. The IIJA, on the other hand, is competitive.

    These investments will give communities that have failed to invest an opportunity to reset their water systems to current standards. For utilities that have invested in maintenance and expansion, the money is an incentive to take the next steps. And, finally, the money is a boost to those (like us in Texas) trying to identify, acquire and build water supplies for the future.

    It is one thing to have funding available, it is another to obtain and allocate. As always, shovel-ready projects may be at the front of the line, but wait, there is more. Small, rural, and Indigenous communities have specific funding allocations. These communities have more success when they form partnerships and work together to develop water projects and infrastructure.

    The federal government prefers cooperation over litigation when it comes to water funding. The Texas Legislature also has a strong preference for cooperative regional solutions. As a practical matter, it is better, cheaper, and faster to cooperate. As a bonus, the available dollars are spent on water rather than administrative processes.

    Let's Get Organized

    The question for Texas is how to implement the State Water Plan. Certainly, an influx of federal dollars will help a lot of places a little bit and a few places a lot. Larger cities and counties typically have staff and resources to identify and pursue opportunities. Small and rural communities often don’t have the human or financial resources, let alone the experience to identify and pursue opportunities.

    We have a new idea for organizing water supply development.

    All About GUAs - Download Now

     

    Florida law allows local government to create inter-local agreements establishing a Government Utility Authority (GUA). GUAs are nothing new. For example, across the U.S. there are government authorities for transportation, stormwater management and coastal resiliency development to name a few. An authority is nothing more than a single-purpose government entity that does one thing for a specific constituency.

    Florida has GUAs that have served them well for decades. These GUAs can take different forms, depending on the cooperating member governments. Their job, though, is to plan for, identify and develop water resources that will drive economic vitality and protect the quality-of-life decades into the future.

    This ensures great planning and awesome implementation. Better still, this approach puts a partnership of smaller, rural communities on a competitive footing with the big guys. A GUA is an equalizer for small utilities and communities, but it’s available to larger organizations, as well.

    Our plan is to take Florida’s successful approach, enhance it and make it uniquely Texan. We hope that this legislative session will support this approach, opening new water opportunities for Texas utilities and customers.

    We want our water supply to be safe, sustainable, environmentally friendly, drought-proof and affordable. It’s a big ask, but then again, we’re Texas.

    Ask Carlos Rubinstein: Q&A with a Texas Water Expert

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    Texas Water Brochure

    Check out this brochure to learn more about Anser Advisory's water and wastewater expertise and capabilities, as well as how we can help your community in Texas maximize the investment impact of your water infrastructure projects.

    Get the brochure →

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    GUA Overview Guide

    Check out our free guide to learn about Government Utility Authorities (GUA), how they work well for communities around the country, and how they can work for your community in Texas.

    Get the guide →

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    What Texas Needs to Know About GUAs & Water

    Government Utility Authorities: Florida’s got ‘em, we want ‘em. Here’s what they do and why it matters in Texas...

    HOW WE CAN HELP

    We provide technical assistance, project management, and innovative delivery solutions to Texas public sector water clients.

    We help our clients:

    • Compete for and utilize IIJA dollars, as well as other state and federal programs
    • Effectively execute projects and programs while maximizing investment impact

    With our support, utility providers, end-customers, and communities manage scarce water resources sustainably.

    Want to learn even more?

    Submit the form and a member of the team will follow up with you.

     


    We are service delivery experts,
    here to help you achieve maximum success.

    As your project representative and service delivery experts, we provide technical assistance, project management support, and innovative solutions to maximize the utilization of IIJA dollars and other state and federal programs, in the face of stiff competition for those resources, to help you effectively execute these projects while maximizing investment impact.

    Through our efforts, we can help with cost and scope containment to benefit both the utility providers and the end-customers and communities.

    Our Water Leadership Team

    Robert-Sheets-web
    Robert Sheets
    Leader, Government Services Group, Anser Advisory

    Known as a man who gets things done, Robert Sheets has spent a professional lifetime helping advance the goals of local governments. His relationships with local, regional, and state governments, as well as the Department of Defense have been instrumental in establishing public-private partnerships with a triple bottom line: good for the community, good for business, and good for the environment.

    Carlos Rubinstein Grey
    Carlos Rubinstein
    Water Policy Consultant, Anser Advisory

    Rubinstein is an expert on Texas water policy. As chairperson of the Texas Water Development Board (2013-2015) he oversaw the implementation of the $2 billion State Water Infrastructure Fund. (SWIFT). He is a Board Member of the Texas Water Foundation and the Texas Water Trade. Rubinstein has served as the Texas representative to the Western States Water Council, and the Border Governors' Conference Sustainable Development worktable. Rubinstein served as a commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from 2009–2013. He is a former deputy executive director of TCEQ and Rio Grande Watermaster. Rubinstein has appeared as an expert witness on various environmental cases and has published several peer-reviewed articles on Texas water policy. He is a former city manager for the City of Brownsville. Rubinstein earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Pan American University.

    Ian Alderson Grey
    Ian Alderson
    Vice President, Anser Advisory

    Alderson brings more than three decades of experience in infrastructure planning, procurement, delivery, and asset management serving clients in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, North America, and the Pacific. His work has included advising public and private sector entities on the development and implementation of innovative projects using delivery methods including design-build, design-build-operate-maintain, and long-term concession agreements, with emphasis on risk management and lifecycle performance optimization. He has been resident in Texas since 2013 and spent nearly a decade supporting the Texas Department of Transportation’s multi-billion-dollar alternative delivery program, including projects in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Licensed in Texas as a Professional Engineer, Alderson earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Liverpool, and his Bachelor of Engineering, Civil Engineering from the University of Bolton, both in the UK. Ian is based in Austin.

    Kristen Braden Grey
    Kristen Braden
    SVP, North Central, Anser Advisory

    With a unique background as a professional engineer and an attorney, Kristen brings more than 20 years of experience managing projects in both the public and private markets. She is focused on growing Anser Advisory’s water/wastewater portfolio by providing excellent customer service and assembling and developing the top talent in our industry.