The 86th Legislature is upon us! Last year numerous groundwater bills were filed, but very few passed. Check out our end of session update from last session for a refresher on the issues that were addressed two years ago.
You may also want to read the groundwater section of the House Natural Resources Interim Report, which gives a thorough overview of groundwater management policy challenges in Texas. It is available here.
TESPA Executive Director, Vanessa Puig-Williams, recently presented at a legislative briefing for House and Senate staff members and gave an overview of groundwater management issues in Texas. You can view the live stream of the video here.
Legislators have already introduced legislation related to groundwater.
HB 726 by Chairman Larson makes several changes to Chapter 36 of the Water Code. In an effort to ease the transfer of groundwater across the state, the bill eliminates export permits and requires GCDs to treat export permits just like production permits. It also limits a GCD’s ability to adopt moratoriums on the issuance of permits and requires that GCD rules in place at the time a permit are granted must apply to that permit even after the GCD amends its rules. One especially positive aspect of the bill is that it requires GCDs to consider impacts to registered, exempt wells when issuing production permits, something that currently GCDs are not obligated to do.
HB 720 by Chairman Larson eases the ability of surface water right holders to use existing or new water rights for aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) projects.
HB 721 by Chairman Larson requires the TWDB to conduct additional studies related to the suitability of certain aquifers for ASR.
HB 722 by Chairman Larson sets up a permitting framework of brackish groundwater permits.
HB 1044 by Representative Zwiener would allow the City of Buda to store non Edwards water (Trinity water or surface water) in an ASR facility. This could help reduce Buda’s reliance on groundwater by allowing them to store surface water underground during period of high flows. You can read more about the bill here.
HB 817 by Representative King prohibits discharges of wastewater effluent into the contributing zone over the Edwards Aquifer within the Nueces River basin.
TESPA will continue to update you as more groundwater related bills are introduced and bills head to committees.
Electro Purification Contested Case Background
Groundwater is privately owned, and right now in Hays County, a corporation is trying to take this privately owned groundwater from landowners who depend on it and from a community who is sustained by it—ultimately harming not only the landowners whose groundwater they are taking, but all of us who love and enjoy the springs and creeks that define the Hill Country. Electro Purification’s ill conceived attempt to develop a groundwater project in the Trinity Aquifer threatens the way of life in the Hill Country. TESPA is committed to fight this project and to protect all of our water rights moving forward.
Last September, TESPA, along with several landowners, was admitted as a party in the contested case against a groundwater production permit request made by Electro Purification to produce up to 2.5 million gallons a day of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer near Wimberley.TESPA has serious concerns about the impacts the proposed permit that the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District has recommended issuing will have on groundwater resources in the area. For example, if the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District issues this permit, it will be giving away all of the remaining groundwater to EP that the Texas Water Development Board has determined is available for production based on the current desired future condition for the Trinity Aquifer in Groundwater Management Area 10. This unprecedented and grossly disproportionate amount to one permittee is not for the benefit of the permittee’s land upon which the wells will produce, but to export the water out of the area. The water is drawn from hundreds of other landowners’ properties without compensation to them, despite Texas law granting them a vested property right to the water under their land. You can read more about the background of the case and the permit here.
Over the last couple of months, the parties in the case were able to agree on a procedural schedule which governs timelines for discovery and prefiled testimony (direct testimony in written form). The hearing will take place at the end of September 19th-27th. Click here to read the full schedule. The parties are beginning to send discovery requests to each other for documents and communications related to the permit, which helps us to build our case.
Electro Purification requested that the Administrative Law Judge refer the case to mediation. The mediation has been set for March 4th.
There is a significant amount of work ahead of us- retaining experts, drafting discovery and testimony, deposing witnesses. Any donation—small or large—helps us to continue fighting this proposed permit and advocate for the rights of the hundreds and hundreds of landowners who will be impacted.