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The bill amends the Texas Water Code relating to the development of seawater and brackish groundwater. The bill requires the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to confirm that regional water planning groups consider large-scale seawater and brackish groundwater desalination associated with brackish groundwater production zones when developing regional water plans. The bill requires TWDB to identify and designate brackish groundwater production zones that are separated by hydrologic barriers sufficient to prevent impact to water availability or water quality in any area of the same or other aquifers with total dissolved solids level of 1,000 milligrams per liter or less and which are not located in areas listed in the bill. The bill requires TWDB to determine and include in the designation description the amount of brackish groundwater that the zone is capable of producing over a 30-year and 50-year period without causing a significant impact to water availability or water quality. The bill requires TWDB to recommend reasonable monitoring to observe the effects of brackish groundwater production within the zone. The bill amends requirements for TWDB's biennial progress report on desalination studies and research to also to also identify and designate brackish groundwater production zones for certain aquifers listed in the bill, providing this report no later than December 1, 2016. Brackish groundwater production zones for other areas of the state would be required by December 1, 2022. The bill would take effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house; otherwise, it would take effect on September 1, 2015.
TWDB estimates a cost of $789,010 in the 2016-17 biennium, which is attributed to hiring two additional staff (1.0 Geoscientist II at $54,761 per year and 1.0 Geoscientist IV at $71,686 per year) for brackish groundwater production zone designations,as well as $400,000 in General Revenue Funds to contract with external sources in fiscal year 2016 to research and report on study elements required by the bill. Equipment and operating costs excluding technology impact are $31,340 in fiscal year 2016 and $14,320 in fiscal year 2017 and subsequent years.
HB 30, if passed, would modify a number of sections of the Water Code in order to more fully develop a brackish groundwater desalination regime. One change (to Section 16.053) would require regional water planning groups to consider opportunities for and benefits of constructing large desalination facilities for brackish groundwater.
The other major change made to the bill modifies Section 16.060. The first set of changes adds brackish groundwater language to those parts of the code which currently only mention seawater. The second set of changes establishes a regime of regional brackish groundwater production zones. Much of this edition relates to the technical information which is to inform such zones, such as geologic barriers and stratum, dissolved solid saturations, and total production capability over a period of years.