Rule Changes & Interim Charges

By the time you read this, WEFTEC will have occured, Imagine a Day without Water 2018 will have already been commemorated, (symbolically by many but no doubt actually realized by some) and Hurricane season will be receding but not without still posing ample threat. These fall events set the stage for the work of the legislators in D.C. and the 86th legislative session in Texas that will provide water mandates and infrastructure funding, as well as, augment the focus of the regulatory arena shaping policy and water regulation. These fall events also create the opportunity for those of us passionate about water to talk about its value and necessity while also exalting the value and necessity of a well-trained and robust workforce. Within this issue, I’ll cover familiar terrain of legislative and regulatory updates. I will also continue to remind folks of the importance of frequent and continuous conversations around the value of water and the value of our water workforce.

Legislators in Texas have been meeting in ernest in late 2017 through 2018 to discuss and present finds on the regular interim charges and Harvey interim charges. To recap, the Committees and charges WEAT is tracking are:

House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) Charges:

  1. Hurricane Harvey and flooding in general:
    1. Regional entities role in developing projects to; control flooding, mitigation to reduce impact of future flood events, funding mechanisms for infrastructure aimed at controlling and reducing flood impacts, and communication between, response of and coordination with of entities that own operate dams and reservoirs and the public, state and local emergency officials.
  1. Hurricane Harvey and flooding in general:
    1. Look at the development of the initial State Flood Plan by TWDB and how Harvey may enhance this.
    2. Science and data needs related to flood risk and response
    3. Best methods for state funding for flood infrastructure needs

3) Evaluate Groundwater Policy

  1. Coordination of aquifer practice - progress and challenges
  2. Case law on groundwater ownership and regulation
  3. Improvements to permitting process - look at HB 31 (85R)
  4. Service area of a water supplier with groundwater resources are allocated based on surface ownership - correlative rights
  5. Brackish production zone designation and research
  6. Groundwater data and science needs
  7. Emerging issues in groundwater and surface water interaction

4) Examine water markets in Texas and potential expansion

5) Examine value and necessary elements of broad-based public awareness campaign on water issues

6) Evaluate results of decertification process and compensation for utilities.

7) Analyze need to update Water Availability Models, WAMs for the river basins

8) Study hazards of abandoned wells

9) Examine water development opportunities with neighboring states and Mexico

10) Monitor agencies and programs under Committee’s jurisdiction and implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature.

House Environmental Regulation Committee:

  1. Examine TCEQ’s response and clean-up efforts related to Hurricane Harvey.
  2. Examine organization of emergency alert systems related to hazardous chemical releases on the local, state and federal level and ways to improve coordination of notifications and communication.
  3. Study permitting and siting of solid waste facilities.
  4. Study economic impact of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  5. Review the TCEQ’s expedited air permitting program
  6. Monitor agencies and programs under Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Session.

Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee - Harvey Charges:

  1. Study water infrastructure projects in State Water Plan and flood mitigation and evaluate plans for a possible 3 reservoir. Examine opportunities for coordination between federal and state agencies to develop flood mitigation infrastructure.
  2. Study ways to improve capacity and maintain structure of Addicks and Barker dams
  3. Study statewide real time flood warning system

Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee (SAWR)

  1. Streamlining Water Permitting: study and recommend changes promoting streamlining of water right permit issuance and promote uniform permitting by groundwater conservation districts.
  2. Study regulatory framework of Groundwater Conservation Districts and River Authorities to ensure property rights are being sufficiently protected. Study role of GCDs and RAs including states oversight role to their operation and fees imposed.
  3. Monitor implementation of legislation addressed by Committee during the 85th Legislature
  • SB 1511 - prioritization in regional water plan
  • SB 1538 - floodplain management account uses
  • SB 864 - GCD application of state water
  • HB 2004
  • HB 3433 - rules affecting rural communities including regional water planning, flood planning, and groundwater protection

The Senate Ag, Water and Rural Affairs committee held their final two hearings on interim charges on June 4 and 5. As determined by the hearings and charges, the SAWR Committee is taking deep dives into flood mitigation and flood recovery approaches, specifically what infrastructure is needed, mechanisms for funding infrastructure, and using science and data to produce a flood assessment to better understand potential impact of flooding. The unfunded but interim charge of a State Flood Plan is getting less attention as the foundation of a flood assessment plan has yet to come into its own as the stakeholder comment period deadline is October 3, 2018. It is a safe assessment of that SAWR has studied groundwater issues in the interim but the overriding focus of charges and hearings has been on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, response from the state, and future flood mitigation efforts. And while it’s difficult to predict, Chairman Perry appears to be the frontrunner for Chair of the SAWR Committee in the 86th Legislative Session.

The House Environment Regulations Committee covered all of its charges and concluded committee hearings on April 25, 2018. The overriding issue that seemed to garner the most attention was Charge 3) on permitting of solid waste facilities. This is in large part due to Harvey and the massive amount of debris needed disposal. Since the Speaker of the House is still quite uncertain, no one is posseting any thoughts on Chairman Pickett retaining Chair of House Environmental Regulations.

The House Natural Resources Committee may have two final committee meetings this fall; one on October 16 and perhaps one on November 14. Alluvial wells, or the mixing of surface water and groundwater, correlative rights, or the landowners groundwater rights as it relates to landownership, and water markets are all major issues covered extensively by the HNRC. Interestingly, the PR side of how the value of water is communicated is a charge that will be discussed on October 16. As mentioned above, because we are uncertain who the Speaker of the House will be, we do not know if Chairman Lyle Larsen will retrain his Chair position of the HNRC.

If you would like to be added to the WEAT/TACWA bill tracking list and bi-weekly legislative and regulatory update throughout the 86th Legislative Session, please email with “Legislative Subscription” in the subject line. We will keep you informed of all water bills filed, committee hearings, and regulatory changes (like Chapter 312 rulewriting on the biosolids rule) on a biweekly basis through the 140 days of the regular legislative session. And if there’s a special session that tackles any legislation impactful to the water industry, we’ll track and report back on that too!

Blending is still a major federal regulatory issue WEAT and TACWA are tracking. EPA announced the re-examination of blending guidance in the face of a hodgepodge of regulation in the face of the Iowa League of Cities case. EPA will host an interactive roundtable of expertes on October 15 to discuss under what circumstances blending could be an acceptable practice. There is a listening session hosted by the EPA and scheduled for October 30. You can register online at: .

The EPA is also seeking informal comments on blending by October 31. More information including the docket number can be found at the address. If the current timeline holds, expect to see a new rule package up for comment in the summer of 2019 and implementation of the new rule in summer of 2020.

The Water’s of the United States rule, or WOTUS, continues to make news. As previously reported, on August 16, a federal court in South Carolina struck down the EPA’s delay on implementing the 2015 WOTUS rule based on APA requirements for comment period. This decision reinstated the 2015 rule in 26 states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. However, with WOTUS the only certainty has ironically been muddied waters; and sticking to this, on September 12 an injunction on the reversal of the suspension of the 2015 rule, was issued by a US District Court in Galveston. This injunction on the reversal of the suspension of the effective date of the 2015 rule, brings Texas , Louisiana, and Mississippi back under the hold of 2015 rule. EPA has posted a map of where the 2015 WOTUS rule is in effect.


The Senate seems poised to vote on and pass the biennial Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that is hailed is a recognition of the value of water and value of investing in water infrastructure as it benefits water quality (wastewater), drinking water, and stormwater policy. Specific funding that WEAT and TACWA have supported that are contained within the bill is a 2 year extension of EPA’s WIFIA program and authorization of $50 million per year. These funds are leveraged and expected to provide $5 billion in funding for low-interest loans for large projects. The WIFIA language in the bill also opens up WIFIA loans directly to SFR programs. Another addition of note is the creation of a stormwater federal task force made up of federal, state, and local governments and private and nonprofit entities to examine, and bring forward recommendations for improvement of the availability of public and private funding sources for construction, rehab, and operation and maintenance of stormwater infrastructure. In an era where our federal lawmakers could not be more diametrically opposed on issues, at least they can agree on the need for funding water infrastructure and therefore the value of water.

WEAT and TACWA are also tracking a number of federal pieces of legislation relating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the authority of USFW. These are quickly moving through the House Natural Resources Committee. Some seek to codify existing practices of consulting state and local entities before listings are made. Others look at clarification of standards for listing and delisting. While others, like holding the consideration of economic impacts with more priority when considering critical habitat designation are a departure from previous authorizations and interpretations of the ESA. We will update you of all bills and regulatory changes as they become impactful for the water quality industry.

Lastly, as a call to action to WEAT and TACWA members, instead of commemorating Imagine a Day Without Water only on October 10, 2018, let’s practice the bottom-up model of change and engage our friends, family, and neighbors and have meaningful conversations on the value of water throughout the year, on many different occasions, in many different settings, and covering many different aspects from resource recovery and innovative technology to the great London fatberg. Let’s make reflection and rumination of how important water is a year-round reflex. We can start by simply chatting about how too much or too little is disastrous and wreaks havoc on human health, the environment, and the economies of regions, cities, and communities. Together, let’s have our many voices and conversations help plant the seed of reflection on the value of water through conversations with our neighbors, family, and elected officials on what it would be like to imagine a day without water. And while we’re at it, let’s hold those in our thoughts that have lived through day(s) without running water – either because of too much, too little, or contamination. Join me, throughout 2018 and 2019, in the action of simple and frequent conversation meant to educate all of those around us that water is essential, invaluable, and needs investment.

Stay tuned for more regulatory and legislative news and Water’s Worth It views from the WEAT office!

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