Upstream Texas - Fall/Winter 2017 - 15
Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board
WHEN HE DECIDED TO accept a seat on the Texas Water
Development Board (TWDB) in late 2013, Bech Bruun knew he
faced a tall order, given that months prior Texas had launched
a new state program aimed at addressing drought conditions
plaguing the state. Bruun recalls how at that time the state
was in the grip of a historic dry spell. "More than 97 percent
of the state was in moderate to severe drought," he says. "That
wasn't an overnight development, but one the state had been
experiencing since the drought started in 2011."
Fortunately, Texas lawmakers made it a priority to establish
affordable financing for projects under the state water plan. In
2013, only a few months before Bruun started his role at the TWDB,
legislators passed House Bill 4, which included language creating
the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program*.
Bruun's first few months at the TWDB included efforts to get
the SWIFT program up and running by the date mandated by the
legislature. Launching a new program entailed developing a stakeholder
process, creating rules, prioritizing projects and drafting the application
process. "Thankfully, TWDB staff was up for the challenge and not
only successfully checked all the necessary boxes for launching the
program, but completed it well before the mandated deadline," he says.
Since then, Bruun reflects, conditions across the state have
improved. He reports the TWDB has committed approximately
$5.6 billion to state water plan projects of all scopes and sizes,
and the initiatives to apply for SWIFT assistance include seawater
desalination, leak detection systems, water meter replacements,
reservoirs, transmission pipelines and reclaimed water projects.
Meanwhile, Mother Nature is doing her part by bringing rain
again - including the historic levels of rainfall dropped in Texas in
August from Hurricane Harvey. "It's a reminder that Texas weather
conditions can change rapidly, and that we always should be prepared
for times of drought or rain," Bruun observes.
Bruun says that over the summer - the hottest time of year in the
Lone Star State - less than 5 percent of Texas was experiencing
drought conditions, and state reservoirs were looking good.
Nevertheless, emphasizes Bruun, the agency knows it must remain
vigilant to fulfill its role of helping communities secure the water
they need. "This is Texas. The weather can change in an instant."
Before TWDB, Bruun previously worked for then-Governor Rick
Perry and the Brazos River Authority. During the 81st Texas Legislature,
he served as chief of staff to Representative Todd Hunter, R-Corpus
Christi, and as general counsel to the House Committee on Judiciary
and Civil Jurisprudence.
With such extensive experience in all branches of Texas government,
Bruun is no stranger to working to resolve some of the state's most
pressing issues, including those that relate to water supply. Hence,
it came as little surprise when Governor Greg Abbott named Bruun
as chairman of the TWDB in June 2015.
In addition to helping ensure SWIFT's progress, other recent
accomplishments during Bruun's tenure at the TWDB include
the completion of the 2017 State Water Plan, the success of the
TWDB's 'Water for Texas 2017' conference, and the creation of
Further, Bruun notes how improvements made to the agency's
internal structure have improved operations at the TWDB. "We have
restructured the agency to create six regional project development
teams that focus on a specific region of the state. The teams are out in
those communities identifying ways the TWDB can help them develop
reliable and sustainable water supplies. When a community comes
to the TWDB for financial assistance, it works through the teams to
submit an application and have projects reviewed."
Bruun mentions that the state's 2017 Water Plan aims to add
8.5 million acre-feet of additional supplies by 2070, and while the
lion's share of that will come from efforts associated with surface
water supplies and conservation efforts, groundwater strategies
are expected to supply 10 percent of that water. That item includes
research TWDB staff has conducted through the Brackish Resources
Aquifers Characterization System (BRACS) program. Bruun says
BRACS already has characterized eight of Texas' brackish aquifers, and
analysis of four more is underway. "The reports include information
on the hydrogeologic framework, the water-bearing lithologic units,
the properties related to groundwater flow, water salinity and water
quality. The information will provide important data for regional
planning groups and other entities interested in using brackish
groundwater as a water supply," he explains. "The oil and gas industry
can assist the BRACS program by continuing to provide well data to
the TWDB. This data is very helpful for us when we are studying
On behalf of the association's membership and the state's oil and
gas industry, TIPRO looks forward to continued collaboration with
TWDB and Chairman Bruun to make certain Texas' water resources
are sustainable and readily available for years to come.
*The SWIFT program includes two funds, the State Water Implementation
Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue
Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). Revenue bonds for the program are issued
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