The facts are that the population of Texas continues to grow, putting increased demands on our existing infrastructure (the basic physical structures and facilities needed for operation), especially aging water and wastewater utility systems. According to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), “in the next 50 years, Texas is expected to experience significant population growth, resulting in increased water needs while facing a declining water supply.” The TWDB has also noted that “water infrastructure — dams, pipelines, reservoirs, desalination plants and more — can be tremendously expensive.” This is where private industry can invest in the public interest by building a better water system that can sustain communities across the state.

Earlier this year, SouthWest Water Company released its 2020 Texas Water Utilities Infrastructure Report, including water and wastewater system upgrades completed in 2020 in 17 counties across the state. From Jan. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, we directly invested approximately $24 million in repairs, replacements and infrastructure upgrades to keep water safe and flowing in Texas.

As someone who has devoted his career to water utilities, and as a new Texan, I believe it is my responsibility to help inform my neighbors about the water infrastructure they cannot see, why this is important and how their partnership plays an important role in keeping water flowing for us all.

You should know that the labor and resources that go into maintaining the infrastructure that powers water systems in your community are substantial. You might see some lines being replaced on occasion or your water service might be briefly disrupted as we make repairs, but otherwise the work and planning go largely unseen.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2021 Texas Infrastructure Report Card, “Texas wastewater infrastructure is facing a funding shortfall of more than $200 million, and the number of sanitary sewer overflows has more than doubled in the last four years, increasing from 2,500 to almost 6,000.” The ASCE rated Texas’ wastewater infrastructure a “D” and drinking water infrastructure a “C-.” This is where we see our opportunity to serve the public good by upgrading these older systems so they can serve our communities for many years to come.

Like our municipal and private utility colleagues, we take great pride in providing safe and reliable water and wastewater service to our fellow Texans, while being good stewards of the environment. The men and women who worked on these projects are members of the communities we serve and value the public’s health above all else.

Texas is a big state with a lot of ground to cover and dirt to move. Our roots are deep here — this year we celebrate a quarter century serving Texans as part the SouthWest Water Company, headquartered in Sugar Land, celebrating its 130th anniversary in 2021. We are proud to invest in the water infrastructure of Texas, as well as in good careers for hundreds of Texans who work as certified operators, maintaining specialty equipment, conducting regulatory monitoring and testing and performing administrative work to keep our customers safe and maintain compliance as a utility. This is work that benefits everyone.

It is important for each of us to remember, although we do not own the water, and neither do you, we are all responsible for it. As a full-service utility, our job is to deliver safe and reliable water you can feel confident drinking and using, and providing environmentally friendly wastewater treatment. It is important to us that you have what you need to make informed decisions for your household. We want our neighbors to be what we call “Water Empowered.”

As Texans, we can each conserve water and be thoughtful about what we put on our lawns and down our toilets. These simple things will make our water systems more efficient and cost-effective for everyone. And they will last much longer.

To learn more about how your household can keep our water safe and infrastructure strong, I encourage you to visit www.swwc.com/h2ome/water-conservation.

JEFFREY L. McINTYRE is president of Texas Water Utilities, SouthWest Water Company.

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