AUSTIN — The Texas House gave final approval today to legislation to fund rain gardens, green roofs, constructed wetlands and other “nature-based” strategies for reducing water pollution, flooding and impacts of drought. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has pledged to dedicate up to $4.5 million per year for the new Water Resource Protection Program.
“This is a step forward to keeping our waterways safe for swimming, playing, and drinking” said Anna Farrell-Sherman, clean water associate with Environment Texas. “Far too often traditional concrete infrastructure treats our waterways as sewer, polluting them with runoff pollution and flooding them when it rains. Nature-based infrastructure will protect our rivers and the Texans who depend on them.”
Texas continues to struggle with water pollution. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, some 800 miles of Texas waterways, including Austin’s Shoal Creek, Lake Houston and the Upper Trinity River, are classified as unsafe for swimming and fishing due to stormwater pollution. When stormwater flows over concrete it can pick up pollutants and build into toxic torrents that flood communities downstream. Nature-based infrastructure can fix the problem by incorporating natural spaces into our stormwater system to help water slow down and soak into the soil, thereby protecting our communities from floods and toxic runoff. Fecal bacteria, dangerous algae, and other pollutants threaten the health of people and wildlife.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides loans and grants to local governments for wastewater treatment plants. A “Green Project Reserve” in the fund supports “green” infrastructure projects such as energy efficiency investments at a treatment plant, but they must make up at least 30% of the total cost of a project. “Nature-based” projects are often too simple and too cost-effective to reach the high cost threshold for the Green Project Reserve Funding. HB 2350 will change that by giving nature-based projects an opportunity for funding through the Green Project Reserve.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Available b-roll for news stories:
San Marcos CM Allen Parkway - from 1:09 clips of a nature-based street design in San Marcos, Texas.
Wimberley One Water School - clips of nature-based infrastructure incorporated into a school in Wimberley, Texas.
CM Allen Parkway Rain Garden. Credit: Greg Schwartz City of San Marcos
Nature-based infrastructure in San Antonio’s Confluence Park. Credit: Francisco Perez.