Tomorrow Fund Breakfast: ‘Nothing happens without water’

By Nicole Ward, Data Journalist

The Dallas Region is in an enviable position with a robust economy and industry diversity that is hard to beat.

“If you’re in the business community, there’s no place in this country you’d rather be than Dallas,” said President and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) Dale Petroskey Thursday, April 6, at the DRC’s first Tomorrow Fund breakfast of the year.

The quarterly event invites DRC members that invest in the Tomorrow Fund to gain insight into the topics impacting and informing the regional and statewide economy. The DRC kicked off this year’s event series with a discussion about the one asset that might be most important of all.

“Though DFW’s rapid growth over the past 30 years is often and rightly attributed to the state and local business climate or our powerful asset mix for companies and people looking to prosper, nothing happens without water,” said Mike Rosa, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the DRC.

Rosa shared that consultants and companies are increasingly asking about water when discussing corporate relocations and expansions. With the economic and population growth the Dallas Region touts, it is important to ensure there is infrastructure to support that growth—and water is a critical piece of that.

“Since 2011, four million people have moved to Texas and not one of them brought water with them,” said Rebecca Trevino, Chief Financial Officer of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and keynote speaker at the April 6 breakfast.

Rebecca Trevino, Chief Financial Officer of the Texas Water Development Board

Trevino talked about water as the “lifeblood of Texas” and a critical piece of the economy. She said a lack of dependable water could result in economic losses to the tune of $100 billion and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

In 2020, 29.7 million people called Texas home, and the potential water deficit was 3.1 million acre-feet (ACF). One ACF is enough water for a family of six for one year. By 2070, Texas’ population is expected to swell to 51.5 million—a 73% increase. Without mitigations, the water deficit would increase to 7.7 million ACF—a 122% increase.

The threat is daunting, but Trevino is adamant that there’s hope thanks to careful planning and investment.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature created the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT, and a corresponding constitutional amendment was overwhelmingly approved by Texans. The actions created a constitutionally protected fund to incentivize the development of water infrastructure projects included in the TWDB’s State Water Plan.

At the onset, TWDB wanted to fund $27 billion in projects over 50 years. To date, the state has committed almost $10 billion to new projects that will yield 1.6 million ACF of water per year—37% of the original goal in just a single decade.

Though the progress and outlook are promising, Trevino reminded Tomorrow Fund breakfast attendees that continued action is necessary.

“If I were a CEO today, in addition to bottom-line issues, like income-generating needs and cost-control tactics, I would also be thinking about labor supply, potential cybersecurity issues, and what my long-term water supply needs are,” Trevino said, reminding business leaders to consider their mitigation plan or strategy if there is a problem with water supply.

Trevino adds that protecting Texas’ water supply is a group effort. The TWDB has over 20 infrastructure projects in the Dallas Region, and companies and individuals alike are encouraged to appreciate the true value of water, promote conservation, and support regional water planning groups.

“Many of you may remember the ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ campaign regarding littering on Texas highways,” Trevino said. “I look forward to the day when all Texans are as aware of water as they are of littering.”

Tomorrow Fund breakfasts are also a chance to recognize companies for their impact and contributions to the Dallas Region. This quarter’s Building Tomorrow Together awards went to Rudolph Foods and Boingo Wireless.

The Tomorrow Fund breakfast series is presented by Holmes Murphy. Planning for a future that supports quality of life for all is why more than 160 member companies invest in the DRC’s Tomorrow Fund, supporting the chamber’s strategic plan. Learn more.