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Water Reuse Advances in the 88th Texas Legislative Session

Date: May 08, 2023

The 88th Texas Legislative session has seen unprecedented activity around water, and WateReuse Texas is collaborating with multiple Texas water organizations to take advantage of the budget surplus and interest in water infrastructure needs. There have also been several regulatory rule amendments and upcoming changes to share with the Texas reuse community.

The Texas House Water Caucus was formed earlier this session by the Texas Water Foundation (TWF) as a non-partisan collaborative focused on water issues. Membership has increased from 38 to 73 legislators and several educational sessions have already been held for legislators and staff. WateReuse Texas is one of the organizations listed in the legislative water caucus portal to contact with questions or for further education. The caucus is an exciting and much needed initiative since many water advocates have left the legislature. WateReuse Texas thanks the Texas Water Foundation for initiating this effort.

Budget & Funding

As we reported in our February newsletter, WateReuse Texas joined with other Texas water associations to spearhead the Water Infrastructure Coalition one-pager. Efforts to ensure the Texas legislature designates funding for water infrastructure include a letter to the Chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee as well as various handouts for legislative leave-behinds. Thanks to the Texas Water Conservation Association for leading this unprecedented coalition.

Senate Bill 28 would create a fund for new water supply projects such as desalination and importing water from other states as well as water projects in rural areas but does not include beneficial reuse specifically as a new water source.

House Bill 10 is its companion, and many water organizations are pushing for additional water supply options to be included, such as reuse and aquifer storage and recovery. Once the bills have been finalized, differences between the two bills will be reconciled via the conference committee before the end of session on May 29.

Onsite Reuse

One of the most exciting legislative developments this session is Senate Bill 1289, which removes regulatory barriers to onsite treatment and reuse of blackwater. Onsite or decentralized reuse is the treatment and non-potable reuse of water contained in a building or multiple buildings. Onsite reuse has many benefits and has been adopted in major cities around the United States to supplement centralized water supplies. In Texas, the owner of the onsite reuse system must also have a wastewater treatment permit (TPDES or TLAP) to treat and reuse blackwater onsite, which has been an impediment to its adoption in Texas.

SB 1289 directs Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to provide a regulatory pathway for entities who want to reuse blackwater onsite and meet certain requirements, including a means of backup disposal through a through a wastewater collection system. The entity must get consent of the operator of the wastewater collection system and any subsequent wastewater treatment facility. 

WateReuse Texas is supporting this bill, which has been referred to the House Environmental Regulation Committee, and we expect it will be heard in the next week or two before it moves on to the full House for a vote. We encourage our members to contact us with any concerns or questions about the bill.

If you’ve been following our collaborative efforts with the Texas Water Conservation Association’s rulemaking petition involving TCEQ Rule 321P, that effort is on hold until the outcome of SB 1289 is determined.

TCEQ Rulemaking Updates & Pending Amendments

An amendment to the Texas Administrative Code Chapter 210 was approved on February 8, 2023 related to the use of reclaimed water (authorization for the use of reclaimed water).

Effective March 02, 2023, TCEQ adopted language in Rule 210.5 of Chapter 210 to clarify that a Chapter 210 reuse permit application may be submitted concurrently or any time after submittal of an application for a permit to treat and dispose of wastewater. The 210 permit will still not be issued until after the TPDES or TLAP permit, but can be issued immediately after.

DPR Guidance Manual

Last fall TCEQ released RG-634, a guidance manual summarizing the approval process for a DPR project and explaining how DPR is regulated in Texas. This was in response to Senate Bill 905 from the 87th legislative session. No regulatory changes were made, the manual simply summarizes existing regulations and permitting processes. WRA member Kennedy Jenks summarizes the approval process and pathogen reduction requirements in this article.

Pending Changes to Chapter 217: Design Criteria for Domestic Wastewater Systems

TCEQ has proposed draft changes to Chapter 217 that include minimum pressure and chlorination requirements for wastewater collection systems used for reclaimed water facilities. The language proposal is shared on the Wastewater System Design Criteria Stakeholder Group page, and a June 6 meeting will soon be announced for stakeholders. WateReuse Texas encourages our members and other stakeholders to participate in this meeting or provide us with your feedback so that we can ensure it is included at the meeting. 

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