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Relating to the storage and recovery of Water in aquifers; authorizing fees and surcharges.
SB 1903, if passed, would make five distinct changes to the Water Code. It would end a current pilot program studying aquifer types, create definitions for aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) projects (Subchapter G), authorize Class V injection wells to be used for ASRs, create definitions for aquifer storage and recovery projects (Subchapter N), and repeal three sections of the Water Code which are currently in force.
All of these changes are ultimately related by reflecting the new ASR regime that HB 655 seeks to clarify. (ASRs are described in the bill as a “project involving the injection of water into a geologic formation for the purpose of subsequent recovery and beneficial use by a public operator”. Each of these five changes will be discussed in turn.
The first change would modify Section 27.151, by eliminating a pilot project which would evaluate the possibility of storing water in aquifers for beneficial future use. It also eliminates the section of code regarding investigating the feasibility of storing water in the aquifers in question. This section of SB 1903 also allows for the creation of aquifers storage and recovery projects (ASRs). This authorization is expanded upon in Subchapter G, Chapter 27, and Subchapter N, Chapter 36. (These two sections do not exist in code but would be added by SB 1903.)
The second change which would be made by SB 1903, would add a Subchapter G to the Water Code. This section is essentially a set of relevant technical definitions related to wells and groundwater. It also states that the Commission will have complete jurisdiction over the regulation and permitting of ASR injection wells.
The third change (for the purpose of this analysis) is Section 27.153 which would allow for the use of Class V injection wells in the creation of ASRs. This section is of note as it contains a series of requirements connected to the maintenance of water quality, such as the requirement that the receiving geologic formation is not harmful and that the water in question not require an unreasonably higher level of treatment.
The fourth change which would be brought about by SB 1903, would add a Subchapter N to the Water Code. Like the above section, this is mostly a set of definitions. Subchapter N though relates to registration and permitting procedures undertaken by the Commission. Most of these are fairly straightforward. The last part of this addition (Section 36.456) related to desired future conditions in aquifer authorities and subsistence districts.
The fifth change would repeal three sections of the Water Code. Sections 11.153 and 11.155 both relate to the repeal of the pilot project for the storage of water in appropriate aquifers. Section 11.154 relates to the permitting procedures involved in the same pilot program.
During extended periods of drought in Texas, water resources can drop to critically low levels in some parts of the state. One exacerbating factor is that water stored in lakes evaporates at a high rate during the summer time making the problems created by the drought all the more pronounced. This legislation is an attempt to address that issue.
SB 1903 is a very detailed bill in that it creates, in essence, a new system for aquifer storage and recovery projects (or ASRs).
An ASR is described in the bill as “a project involving the injection of water into a geologic formation for the purpose of subsequent recovery and beneficial use by the project operator”. Notably, the implications of this bill are not merely legal, but in fact authorize new physical engineering projects. Essentially, and despite its complexity, SB 1903 gives the TCEQ another tool to combat drought issues within Texas and provide for the more efficient long-term storage of water.
Given that management of water resources is a already a function of the state, and given that SB 1903 would provide for a way to make the state's efforts more effective and successful, we support this bill. Increasing the effectiveness of the state's efforts to provide for better water storage options during times of drought comports with our limited government principle.
We also supported the identical House companion bill, HB 655.