Texans have voted overwhelmingly for a constitutional amendment to allocate $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day” fund to programs intended to secure water supplies in the frequently drought-stricken state. The measure had the support of the oil and gas industry, whose use of water for hydraulic fracturing is often scrutinized.

“We are pleased to have supported this initiative and glad that voters saw the value in setting aside funds to help finance future Texas water projects,” said America’s Natural Gas Alliance’s (ANGA) Christopher Coleman, senior director of state affairs.

“The overwhelming support for this initiative clearly demonstrates a practical approach to the existing drought conditions…ANGA member companies are committed to developing natural gas in a way that protects air, land and water…”

While hydraulic fracturing uses a lot of water, the volume pales in comparison to the amount used in other sectors, such as agriculture. Drilling and completions in the Eagle Ford Shale account for about 6% of the water demand in South Texas, while irrigation accounts for 64% and municipal uses account for 17%, according to the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force (see Shale Daily,Jan. 27, 2012).

Statewide, irrigation accounted for 60% and municipal 27% of the water used in 2009, while mining accounted for just 1%, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

The 83rd Texas Legislature earlier this year approved three bills as part of a package to fund projects within the state’s water plan. Taken together, these bills proposed the constitutional amendment to create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), appropriate $2 billion from the economic stabilization fund to the SWIFT, and direct the Texas Water Development Board on how the newly created fund may be used. Now that voters have approved the amendment, the state can begin implementing SWIFT.

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter said population growth and drought conditions have strained water supplies in the state. “I believe securing a dedicated revenue stream to fund water projects is one of the single most important actions we can take in securing the economic prosperity of the state of Texas,” he said.