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State gets thumbs up to fund water projects, but how much money will El Paso actually see?

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas Water: You can't live without it, but parts of the Borderland struggle to get it. Now, Texas voters approved setting aside $2 billion to jump-start funding water conserving projects in the state.

It's called Proposition 6. It's a plan to take $2 billion out of the state's rainy day fund and start a low-interest loan program so cities can fund water-conserving projects.

"We're talking about funding for building more reservoirs in order to conserve the water when it rains and we get run off, so we can capture the water," said Sen. Jose Rodriguez.

Now approved, Rodriguez said if El Paso wants part of those funds officials need to act pretty fast.

"Every community will have an opportunity to file applications for water projects that they develop so (if) we don't submit applications then someone else is going to, no pun intended, tap into those funds," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said in order to fund all of the water projects in the state it would take around $53 billion. For the funds already approved though, Rodriguez said El Paso must compete against larger cities including Dallas and Houston.

"Those are big players in the Texas Legislature.  They have very powerful delegations and more members in the Legislature, said Rodriguez.

Residents in outlying areas said they hope officials in the Borderland do jump quickly since many people in the Borderland are still struggling to get water.

"A lot of times we don't have any water pressure so it's very hard to bathe at certain times, and summer months, your watering, you can't water because there's no pressure, said Vinton resident Ana Arreola.

Arreola has lived in the same house for 23 years and said things haven't gotten any better.

"In the summer it happens a lot, like, every evening," said Arreola.

One project Rodriguez has in mind would capture more water when it rains and reduce evaporation.

"We probably could use the money to line more of our canals with concert," said Rodriguez.

But Rodriguez said Prop 6 won't just help conserve water. He said in the long run it should help our economy.

"For example the oil and gas industry. Right now it's been generating revenues that are record number revenues in the state through fracking," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said Prop 6 can also help the local economy.

"Unless you have a steady supply of water then you can't compete because businesses will not come and locate in Texas, they will not come locate in El Paso if they find out we have scarce water resources," said Rodriguez.

Arreola said the one restaurant near her home has switched ownership numerous times.

"A lot of the businesses don't make it out here and they don't stay. They're there for a couple of months and then close," said Arreola.

Arreola said she sees Prop 6 as a possible positive.

According to Rodriguez, this $2 billion is just a start. He hopes Prop 6 will get people to see how important it is to think about water conservation.
 

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