Aquifer storage bill dies in Lege

A bill meant to ease restrictions for Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) for Buda died before it could be heard on the Texas House of Representatives floor prior to Sine Die last month.

Even with the bill’s demise, Buda city officials, who clamored for the bill, still have hope for the future.

“All is not lost,” Brian Lillibridge, Buda water specialist, said in an interview about the bill’s failure.

Lillibridge said ASR technology is in its infancy, so the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) is in the process of creating regulations regarding ASR, while municipalities like Buda are looking for ways to fund the project.

“We can still proceed forward and we still have interest in including the ASR project in our next fiscal budget,” Lillibridge said.

According to an interview with State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), who authored 2017 HB 3333, the bill was placed on the House calendar, but was not heard prior to the end of the regular sesson.

If passed, the bill would have allowed the city of Buda to build a water pipe that passes water through the Edwards Aquifer to the Trinity Aquifer, and deposit “recharged” water into the Trinity for storage. 

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

Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said even though the legislation failed “there are still options available,” but they are highly limited regarding the type of water that is used to recharge the aquifer.

“The bill was giving us some more options but it’s an expensive project nonetheless,” Ruge said.

Ruge said the city contacted the BSEACD before the legislative session to work on some specifics of the bill. He hopes to “partner with BSEACD in the future.”

John Dupnik, BSEACD general manager, said that even though the district didn’t take a specific position on HB 3333, they “are very supportive of the concept of ASR.”

“We worked with them (Buda) before the session,” Dupnik said. “We worked out some language that would allow them to do what they wanted and still protect the Edwards Aquifer.”

Isaac said the bill’s failure was very disappointing because “ASR is a great conservation measure” that would allow the storage of water within an existing aquifer that could be a surplus in times of drought for municipalities.

Ruge said he had hoped that Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) would file a companion bill in the Senate to increase the bill’s chances of passing, but admitted that the 85th Legislative session was difficult for localized bills.

As for the future of ASR in Buda, city officials are still interested, but the issue of funding the project will come down to a council decision.

“That will be a decision the city council will have to make in the future,” Ruge said. “Wait for the next legislative session or go ahead with the alternative.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for the Special session of the legislature, beginning on July 18 to further discuss 19 agenda items that were not finalized during the 140-day regular session.

HB 3333 is not among the agenda items to be taken up during the 30-day special session, which according to the Texas Observer is going to cost taxpayers $1 million. 

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