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Hap on the Cap – NBU Seeking Legislative Approval for First Ever Edwards Aquifer ASR

Published Friday, April 5, 2019 2:00pm

A weekly Texas Legislative Update will be provided in Serving You. Click here for the Chamber’s Legislative Priorities and click here to view the Chamber’s bill tracker recording the bills the Chamber is following.

The 86th Texas Legislative Session is now fully in the meat of the session with a lot of movement and activity happening on bills that we’re watching. One such bill, that is near and dear to our community, was filed specifically for New Braunfels Utilities by our local legislators. 

House Bill 481 by Rep. Kuempel of Seguin and its companion Senate Bill 520 by Senator Campbell of New Braunfels and Senator Zaffirini of Laredo, address NBU’s plan to store water in the brackish Edwards Aquifer and then extract that water in times of need. NBU likens the Aquifer Storage Recovery (ASR) Project to having an underground piggy bank or savings account for drinking water.

NBU purchases water rights from different sources and a standard in the industry is a “take or pay” system. This means that NBU has to pay for the annual water rights whether they actually use them or not. NBU is paying for water in case we need it, but when we don’t, NBU ends up having received nothing for their money.

The ASR project allows NBU to use the water they’ve paid for by pumping potable drinking water into the brackish Edwards Aquifer. It displaces the brackish water, creates a fresh water reservoir, is stored there, and then extracted by reverse pumping if needed. The ASR would allow NBU to take extra water during times of plenty and store it underground for future use in times of drought.

ASR wells are not new technology. In fact they already exist in 23 states and there are 35 already in Texas. However, this is the first ASR proposed in the brackish Edwards, which means it must be approved by the State Legislature. These bills would allow for water to be injected into the brackish Edwards Aquifer.

The proposed site for the ASR wells is at the New Braunfels Regional Airport. This provides protected land and prevents anyone else from being able to tap the wells. NBU would invest more than $12 million in electric, water, and wastewater infrastructure as part of the project, including investment in fiber communication. This will allow for quicker development of the airport property, giving the community an economic development advantage. The ASR would potentially be ready for use in 2020 or 2021.

The Senate bill has made it out of the committee with a unanimous vote for approval and will now be voted on by the full Senate. The House bill should not be far behind. It is technically still in the committee stage but has been approved unanimously by the Natural Resources Committee and will go on to the full House of Representatives next.

Next week we’ll look at an important aspect of our community’s economic development efforts – the renewal of the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act which is an important tool for recruiting jobs to New Braunfels.