The Senate passed a bill Monday designed to help the state cope with rising water demand as more and more people move to Texas. With most of the state experiencing drought conditions and a population expected to double in the next 50 years, maintaining the supply of water is a top concern, according to bill author Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay. His bill, SB 4, is only the latest in a long line of state water plans that never received funding in past legislative sessions. "Lt. Gov. Bullock described the statewide water plan as the milestone legislation that will be at the very heart of our legacy," said Fraser. "I don't think he envisioned that 16 years later it would still be sitting on the shelf unfunded." What's different this time is that the funding for the water plan has already passed the Senate. Water infrastructure was identified as a top priority by Governor Rick Perry in his State of the State address in January, and he supported paying for it by using money from the Rainy Day Fund. Last Thursday, the Senate approved a bill that would put the funding issue before the voters in the form of a ballot question in the November election. If approved by voters, $2 billion would be transferred from the Rainy Day Fund into the fund created by the legislation which passed on Monday. SB 4 creates the Statewide Water Infrastructure Fund of Texas (SWIFT) to manage and oversee the fund.

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A three member board, with advice from a legislative committee, would approve loans to regional water authorities to pay for water infrastructure projects. It now heads to the House for concurrence.