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TX v NM litigation and SWIFT among discussion topics at TWDB Board work session

For immediate release. Contact: Lauren Munguia at 512-463-2322

AUSTIN  (May 29, 2014)  Today, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) held a Board work session in El Paso. The session was open to the public and allowed an opportunity for interested stakeholders to provide comment, as well as hear updates, on a variety of issues.

Today's work session included discussion on the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). Last November, Texas voters approved legislation that enabled the state to create the two funds, which will help finance projects in the state water plan. TWDB is in the process of developing administrative rules to establish how the SWIFT and SWIRFT will be used. The rules will define standards for rural, conservation and reuse projects, as well as prioritize projects that are seeking financial assistance.

Another topic on the agenda today was an update by TWDB Chairman Carlos Rubinstein on the litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the Rio Grande Compact.

Texas filed an original action in the Supreme Court against the state of New Mexico, alleging that New Mexico has violated the Rio Grande Compact, which is an interstate water agreement between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado apportioning the waters of the Rio Grande Basin between the headwaters of the Rio Grande and Fort Quitman in Texas. The Compact also involves the Rio Grande Project served by Elephant Butte, which provides critical irrigation water in both New Mexico and Texas. Texas' case against New Mexico centers on New Mexico's authorization and permitting of diversions of water for use in New Mexico between Elephant Butte and the Texas state line. These diversions violate the Compact and adversely affect deliveries of water apportioned to Texas. In late January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas can proceed with the case.

"We were compelled to take action because the Rio Grande is a critical water supply for the Texas border region," said Chairman Carlos Rubinstein. "The outcome of this case directly affects the El Paso area. This case reflects Texas' resolve to protect its sovereign rights to water Texas is entitled to under the Rio Grande Compact."

At the work session, the Board approved approximately $600,000 in grants from the Agricultural Water Conservation Fund.

"The TWDB is committed to helping Texas agriculture. These conservation grants will help several areas of the state purchase irrigation meters, monitor irrigation water use, and improve irrigation efficiency," said Board member Bech Bruun.

The Board also heard presentations on the Economically Distressed Areas Program, one of TWDB's financial assistance programs, and desalination activities in the El Paso area.

"We know that El Paso is a leader in water technology and conservation," said Board member Kathleen Jackson. "Their success stories can help other communities find new and innovative water supply solutions."

The TWDB is the state agency charged with collecting and disseminating water-related data, assisting with regional planning, and preparing the state water plan for the development of the state's water resources. The TWDB administers cost-effective financial assistance programs for the construction of water supply, wastewater treatment, flood control, and agricultural water conservation projects.