Texas Water Development Board at the heart of the reservoir planning process

There is no doubt that water is the most precious commodity in Texas, eclipsing even oil and natural gas. Without water there is no growth, no industry, no trade and no way of life.

As a result, just as Texas regulates the oil and gas industries through its Railroad Commission, the state has a board of appointed officials who oversee the development of the state’s myriad water systems.

This is where the Texas Water Development Board comes in.

Brooke Paup of Austin is the current chair of the three-member board, which currently has only two members. Paup said Texas law requires the board to consist of an attorney, a financial planner and an engineer. “I’m the board attorney,” Paup said, adding that Beaumont’s Kathleen Jackson is the engineer. Paup said she doesn’t know when the state will fill out the financial planner.

Prior to his appointment to the board, Paup served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Texas Comptroller’s Office, leading a team of staff to address statutory tax reforms. She is also the former Deputy Division Chief for Intergovernmental Relations and the former Special Assistant for Policy and Research for the Texas Attorney General’s Office. It was there that she helped draft legislation to improve water service to the state. Paup has 15 years of experience in the Texas government.

Paup earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and his law degree from Texas Tech University.

“Our agency’s mission is to make sure we have enough water to support the state,” Paup said. “I basically run a small bank” that handles grant applications and distributes funds to local water districts to carry out their projects, she said.

Paup noted that the water development council is concerned with three basic elements in fulfilling its mission.

“We work on the science of studying groundwater and surface water needs, she said. Paup then turned to the planning stage, where the organization she called “my little agency” works with 16 water planning groups and 15 flood planning groups statewide. . Finally, she talked about the financial aspect that allows the Water Development Board to “provide loans to local governments and grants for conservation (of agriculture)”.

Water and flood planning organizations are run almost entirely by volunteers, Paup said. “They all have regulations and involve stakeholders” with special interests or expertise in water development planning.

Texas revamped the Water Development Board in 2013 after the “record drought of 2011” ravaged much of Texas, Paup said. The state then created the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT.

During the 2013 legislature, Paup worked on the staff of the Texas Attorney General and “helped draft a bill authorizing the construction of Lake Bois d’Arc and Lake Ralph Hall. She said the Water Development Board had provided $1.5 billion for the development of Lake Bois d’Arc, which she said is “filling up fast. I think it might even be ahead of schedule.

She pointed out that Lake Bois d’Arc will eventually provide water to 1.7 million North Texans. Paup credits the SWIFT program with helping the state build its first surface water reservoir in 30 years. She described the SWIFT program as “the gold standard for infrastructure financing for the whole country”.

“I never thought in my life that we would see the development of not one reservoir, but two of them,” Paup said of the Bois d’Arc Lake and Lake Ralph Hall projects being developed. simultaneously.

She is unaware of any future surface water projects planned at this time, but is proud of the fact that since its inception in the 1950s, the Texas Water Development Board has provided approximately $32 billion for water projects. water throughout the state.

Galen Roberts, water resources assistant for the Municipal Water District of North Texas, said his agency “has a good working relationship” with the Water Development Board. “We regularly work with them on projects”, such as Bois d’Arc Lake.

“They’re a great partner to have and we’re excited about the progress of the lake,” Roberts said. “We are all working for the same thing, which is to meet the state’s water needs and goals,” he said.

“We’re a small agency,” Paup said of the Water Development Board, adding that “we’ve never had more than 400 full-time staff.” She noted that the attorney general’s office, where she previously worked, employs 4,000 people.

“We have a huge mission,” Paup said, “and we are working very hard to accomplish it.”

Louisa R. Loomis