Bill could open faucet for aquifer storage project

The city of Buda may be able to pass water through the Edwards Aquifer and into the Middle Trinity for storage if the Texas Legislature passes a bill that eases restrictions relating to Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR).

House Bill (HB) 3333, authored by State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), allows the TCEQ to authorize an injection well that transects the Edwards Aquifer within the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD).

The bill could ultimately allow Buda to store treated water for later use in the Middle Trinity Aquifer.

Current BSEACD rules state water passing through the Edwards Aquifer can only be comprised of untreated Edwards water.

The TCEQ could authorize the injection of fresh water into a well provided it isolates the Edwards Aquifer, is part of an engineered aquifer storage and recovery facility, and if water is sourced from a TCEQ-permitted public water system.

Water that’s injected into wells will meet water quality standards for public drinking water, which are established by the TCEQ, Isaac said.

If the bill passes, Buda’s aquifer storage and recovery project will start small with one well, said Brian Lillibridge, Buda’s water specialist. 

“This is great planning, it’s great forward-looking to do it now when we’re not in a drought. getting prepared for when we are in a drought,” Isaac said.

Water can also be stored to be used during seasonal peak demand, such as storing water in the winter for use in the summer to meet higher demand, Lillibridge said.

There’s all sorts of flexibility on the size of an aquifer storage and recovery project and what it does, Lillibridge said. He referenced ASR operations in Kerrville, along with the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) ASR project.

“It will mean we don’t have to deplete our other aquifers as much when we’re in a drought because the water’s stored there and ready to be used,” Isaac said.

The cost of an ASR project depends on the cost of infrastructure and how deep the well is drilled, Lillibridge said.

Buda officials will need to consider the cost when working on the budget, Lillibridge said.

After an April 19 Natural Resources Committee meeting, the bill was put on the committee’s calendar for a vote, although it hasn’t been scheduled yet. If the committee approves the bill, it will move to the House for a vote.

There was no opposition at the committee’s meeting and public hearing. Committee members are familiar with ASR and understand its benefits, Lillibridge said.

Buda city officials brought the idea to Isaac in between legislative sessions, asking his office to file the bill.

“I applaud the City of Buda for their efforts to serve the citizens that they represent by helping me with the passage of H.B. 3333,” Isaac said.

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