New Texas House caucus to prioritize water problems in rural Texas

New Texas House caucus to prioritize water problems in rural Texas
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:38 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:55 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Several East Texas lawmakers are committed this legislative session to learning more about the state’s aging and fragile water infrastructure.

State representatives Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches), Cody Harris (R-Palestine), and Keith Bell (R-Forney) are among the 42 lawmakers who make up the new bipartisan Texas House Water Caucus.

“I think whether you are aware of it or not, it affects the lives of every one of us,” Harris said about water.

The establishment of the caucus was recently announced by the Texas Water Foundation, a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to lead Texas into a sustainable water future. CEO Sarah Schlessinger said the caucus will focus mostly on educating lawmakers instead of pushing for specific legislation.

“Water is a very complex issue that has a lot of technicalities to it and it’s very location specific,” she said. “What’s happening in East Texas is very different than what’s happening in the Hill Country, which is very different from what’s happening in the Panhandle.”

Many East Texans are no stranger to water problems. According to the Texas Tribune, seven of the ten water entities that issued the most boil notices last year were in rural East Texas.

“These water supply corporations don’t have the resources to keep up,” Harris said. “As the pipes fail and pumps fail, they’re pumping the water out of the ground.”

A fast-growing population has also created challenges when it comes to water security in Texas, according to Schlessinger.

“On one hand, we’ve got this increase in population that’s adding pressure to some of our larger urban growth areas,” said Schlessinger. “But in our rural communities, they’ve got the opposite issue. Which is deteriorating, aging infrastructure and in some cases a loss of population, which then impacts their ability to finance infrastructure improvements.”

And while East Texas fares better than other parts of the state with having plenty of groundwater, it also creates a challenge with other areas wanting and needing our supply.

“We’ve got an abundance of it,” Harris said. “And so, it’s a combination of all of us coming together and recognizing the critical importance that water is for our state, while also committing to looking for solutions that don’t really harm those of us who have it. "