If there is one thing that can stir up passion in a Texan, it’s water. And why not? Texas has its share of arid lands, and fresh water has long been a precious commodity.

With the state’s population expected to more than double in the next 50 years, and existing water supplies projected to decrease by 18 percent, water planning is essential. Fortunately for Texans, a state law passed in 1997 gives them a stronger voice in the water planning process than ever before.

Senate Bill 1, passed by the 75th Texas Legislature and signed by then-Governor George W. Bush, created a “bottom up” approach to state water planning. SB1 tasked the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to divide the state into 16 planning areas, each with a Regional Water Planning Group. The Brazos River basin includes parts of three of these planning areas: Region O, including the upper basin in the Texas Panhandle; Region G, which extends from the Panhandle across Central Texas to the edge of the Gulf Plains; and Region H, the section of the Gulf Coast area surrounding Houston.

Each regional group is made up of representatives of several local interests, such as the public, agriculture, business, city and county governments, water districts and others. This group drafts a proposed regional plan that reflects input from those interests. This proposed plan takes into account the water needs and resources of the region as well as actions local officials may take to help meet those needs such as planning for additional reservoirs, water and wastewater treatment plants, transportation pipelines, and conservation efforts.

The group then holds a public meeting to present the draft regional plan. Members of the public can make comments at that meeting or later submit them in writing. Under the water planning system established by SB1, these public comments, as well as others presented on the draft plan, will be considered when the final plan is developed.

These regional plans are incorporated into the final State Water Plan, due to be completed in 2011. Then under Texas law, the whole process will begin again when the plan is updated every five years, and the public will have another say about the future of Texas’ water.