Buda ASR bill heads to Gov’s desk

Buda’s multi-year quest for legislation aimed at allowing the storage of fresh water in the Edward’s Aquifer for later use is now in the hands of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

On May 22, Senate Bill 483, authored by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and co-sponsored by State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), was approved by a 142-2-2 vote by the Texas House. State Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant) and State Rep. Candy Noble (R-Allen) were the dissenting votes. In April, SB 483 passed through the Texas Senate by a 31-0 vote.

Abbott had until June 1 to either sign the bill, veto it, or approve the bill by not taking formal action.

Per SB 483, Buda would be able to move forward with plans for Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR), which would allow the city to use the Edwards Aquifer to store groundwater for future use during times of peak usage.

Currently, 60 percent of Buda’s water supply comes from surface water via the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, while the remaining 40 percent comes from the Edwards Aquifer via production permits from the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD).

Zwiener said in a statement the state must have “frameworks in place” to meet growing water demands. She added that the bill ensures Buda has access to adequate water supplies all year long, and could help Buda delay its need to secure new water sources.

Buda is one of several entities which has paid into the Alliance Regional Water Authority’s (ARWA) planned pipeline in order to receive water from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Gonzales County. ARWA officials estimate the pipeline going online by 2023.

“This is a cost effective way to utilize the Edwards Aquifer to reduce the city of Buda’s reliance on surface water and meet peak demand times of greatest need,” Zwiener said.

As Buda awaits the fate of its bill, officials continue to push forward with their ASR plans.

Blake Neffendorf, Buda water specialist, said city staff is waiting for approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on the final design of its pilot well before drilling begins. Buda submitted the request in January and received feedback and comments from TCEQ in March and May. 

Design of the test well, to be located along FM 967, is currently at 90 percent. However, Neffedorf said the city must wait for TCEQ’s final approval in the event it makes any “minor tweaks” to the plans.

Buda plans to drill through the Edwards Aquifer formation and into the Middle Trinity Aquifer to store its water.

In addition, Buda officials submitted an application with the BSEACD to store groundwater into the aquifer. Neffendorf said BSEACD officials, who oversee the Trinity and Edwards aquifers, finalized their rules allowing for ASR in March, but a formal adoption has not yet taken place.

City officials anticipate placing the well out for bid for construction later this summer. Buda hopes to drill and test the well by fall or winter 2019. That process includes ensuring drilling through the Edwards doesn’t contaminate water in the the Trinity Aquifer.

Officials will then conduct water testing to ensure ASR is feasible. While Neffendorf said Buda staff has a “good idea” of what to expect with water from the Middle Trinity, testing will check to see if there are any anomalies when surface water mixes with ground water. 

“We don’t anticipate those things happening,” Neffendorf said. He cited data compiled from Ruby Ranch, which has an ASR well, which have come back with no issues.

Cost for the pilot well, however, is more than anticipated, Neffendorf said. Current estimates have the well costing $2.05 million.

Buda budgeted $1.9 million for the project in 2018.

“This is a great project and I’m glad we’re moving forward on it and being on the cutting edge of what we’re doing here,” said council member Paul Daugereau.

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