By Rebecca Flannery
Local and state officials announced Wednesday that applications for financial assistance through the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) are now open.
Applications for SWIFT are due to the Texas Water Development Board by Feb. 3, 2015.
Kathleen Jackson, board member on the Texas Water Development Board, said SWIFT will act as a bank with funds available for political subdivisions of the state to apply for funding on water conservation and improvement projects. Jackson said she hopes SWIFT will be able to remedy and prepare for further drought in Texas.
“There are about 1,200 people moving to Texas daily, and they’re not bringing water with them,” Jackson said. “The community has to take the bull by the horns to make sure we have what we need today, for our children and for our children’s children.”
The program will offer several ways to fund projects already included in the state water plan, which was most recently updated in 2012. The state water plan is updated, and new projects will be adopted, every five years according to the Texas Water Development Board website.
The funding for SWIFT comes from a $2 billion transfer, approved by Texas voters from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, known as the Rainy Day Fund. Voters approved the constitutional amendment in November 2013 after it was introduced by the Texas Legislature, according to information from the Texas Water Development Board.
“We’re getting ready to start working on the 2017 plan,” Jackson said. “A lot of what will happen is now that communities see that there’s funding available, they’ll become more engaged in the regional planning process and communities will start thinking about where they are in the plan.”
Brenner Brown, Brazos team manager for the Texas Water Development Board, said at least 10 percent of the SWIFT fund is set aside for rural projects and at least 20 percent will go toward water conservation.
“These are the two most important parts of the legislation,” Brown said. “These statistics are not a cap, these are baselines for us.”
Local stakeholders were in attendance for the press conference, including Kevin Dorton, vice president of administrative services for Texas State Technical College. Dorton said SWIFT would be useful to the technical college to improve their out-of-date irrigation system.
Jackson said while new projects not yet adopted into the state water plan won’t be eligible for SWIFT funding, there are still other funding programs available for application where needed.
“The main message is, ‘come see us,’” Jackson said. “Come sit down and talk with us about what the scope of the project, challenge and opportunity is within the confines of water needs.”
Jackson said she believes the answer to water problems won’t come from a singular source, but rather from a collection of smaller entities in communities.
“Each project funded by SWIFT will take us one step closer to being drought-resilient,” said Carlos Rubinstein, chairman of Texas Water Development Board, in a press release.