Texas

Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Water Bills Flood the House

DPA/LANDOV

The State Legislature will hear six bills today that would effect several of the state's water issues.

Update: As of Thursday morning none of the bills mentioned in this article had been brought to the floor with the exception of HB2133 and HB1509.

Wednesday, the legislative calendar is inundated with bills that would effect how the state handles its water issues.

In total, six water bills are up for a second reading in the house, three of them authored by State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio.

HB 2133, would allow the state to use alternative techniques in water treatment, namely desalination. The bill also promotes water reuse.

Another of Larson’s bills promotes underground storage facilities as an alternative to drawing water from lakes, where more water is lost to evaporation. HB 3013, the aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) bill, also changes the role of the groundwater conservation districts for the future of the state’s water.

The House Natural Resources Committee heard HB 3013 twice before passing it out of committee. Several cities across the state support the bill, but it remains controversial among environmental groups. 

Austin-based engineer James Dwyer said there is a risk for minerals like arsenic to seep into groundwater in aquifer storage projects, but it has not been a problem with any of the three currently used in Texas.

Larson partnered with State Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Houston, for HB 2578, which would ease the permitting process for desalination facilities, making it easier for the state to introduce brackish groundwater or seawater into its water supply.

Other bills today focus on keeping fresh water clean, keeping dirty water sequestered and penalizing people who use too much water.

A bill by State Representatives Gene Wu, D- Houston, and Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, outlines regulations for saltwater pipelines. The water transported in HB 2406 wouldn’t go to desalination facilities, though, it would head to disposal wells after use in oil and gas drilling. A similar bill passed through the Senate last week.

Permits to mine sand, gravel or other resources from a protected freshwater area would not be allowed under HB 2146 introduced byState Representatives Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, and State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Harlingen. The legislative analysis of this bill focuses on its protection of property rights in addition to its environmental effects.

In HB 1509, introduced by State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D- Dallas, those violating water conservation ordinances would not be prosecuted criminally, but rather in a civil or “quasi-judicial” court.

The water bills are scheduled for second hearings by the House for today.

Olivia Gordon is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas.

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