With Fate of Water Plan in Limbo, House Committee Pushes Smaller Water Bills

Photo credit: Reuters / Gene Blevins / LANDOV

A supercell storm west of Newcastle, Texas tries to build up strength April 9, 2013. The Texas Legislature passed a couple bills regarding water Wednesday but stopped short of discussing landmark bill HB 11.

Quicker than a spring thunderstorm, the House Natural Resources Committee met and pushed forward several bills at the Capitol this morning. While several smaller pieces of legislation were approved, representatives at the meeting managed to avoid talk of HB 11, a marquee piece of water legislation torpedoed on the House floor Monday evening.

A bill promoting rainwater collection and another regarding water loss reporting by utilities were “voted favorably as substituted.” In other words, they were voted out of committee.

The rainwater collection bill, HB 2781 by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, would allow people with a public water supply connection to collect rainwater for potable purposes.

Fletcher’s rainwater collection bill cleans up some hazy language in a similar bill by  Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, which was passed in the last legislative session.

Conservation “is absolutely one of the most critical things that we do because the cheapest water that we will ever have is the water that we conserve,” Miller told StateImpact Texas after the meeting.

Rainwater harvesting is the practice of catching rainwater and reusing it. Collection systems can be as complicated as a roof catchment and purification system or as simple as a barrel beneath a gutter.

The bill now heads to the House. (Check out StateImpact Texas’ previous reporting on rainwater collection here.)

Another bill, HB 1641 by Rep. Jimmie Aycock, R-Killeen, was also voted out of committee. The bill would require a public water utility that loses more than 10 percent of its total water to notify customers on their billing statement and explain how the water was lost. The bill now heads to the House.

Committee representatives skirted any talk of HB 11, one of the most watched pieces of legislation this session. The bill, authored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Allen Ritter, R-Nederland, which would pull $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to finance water projects outlined in the State Water Plan, was sunk Monday evening. A successful point of order by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston Early sent the bill back to committee.

Miller said he is still hopeful the legislature can pass the momentous legislation.

“There’s still some time. There’s a Senate bill out there,” Miller told StateImpact Texas. “Water is the fuel that is driving our economy and if we can’t fund these projects, these local projects, then all the other things are going to just suffer.”

(Check out StateImpact Texas’ previous coverage of HB 11 here.)

David Barer is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas.

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