A Year in Review & A Year on the Horizon

Austin has officially received our first freeze, folks have celebrated the changing season - some with family and turkey, some simply with smiles and slowing down, and Texas is barrelling towards the official start of the 140 days of 86th Regular Legislative Session. As is tradition with end-of-year WEAT articles, I’d like to take a moment to remember all WEAT accomplished in 2018 and look ahead and perhaps into a bit of a crystal ball forecast of what 2019 may hold.

The way we consume information, learn, interact, and understand resource recovery through water quality management has radically changed in the past decade. The average demographic of WEAT’s membership has also changed and will continue to do so at an ever increasing pace. These demographic forces and technological evolutions are embraced by your WEAT team. Because of, not in spite of change, WEAT revamped our website and our logo. WEAT Officers and staff understand that members need access to a broad range of water quality information online. This includes a more intuitive technical and educational registration process, access to an up-to-date job board, a weekly roundup of Texas water news, timely regulatory and legislative information, and a library of public communication and information fact sheets. Understanding the needs of the water quality in Texas, R6, and nationally, and delivering on these in the form of accessible and digestible information, helps keep WEAT members at the forefront of water issues.

You may have noticed our facelift. Understanding that changes and trends in iconography and design impact people’s perceptions of a brand and the work behind the brand pushed WEAT to take a bold move. WEAT underwent rebranding based on research conducted by an independent consultant of our stakeholders and members. 2018 and WEAT’s design change did provide for at least one cliche, WEAT is not your grandfather’s organization! Our current mark or logo presents a more professional brand and reaches a younger audience. The logo is inspired by the three core pillars of WEAT; advocate, scientific, and educational, which we don’t always discuss but they infuse all work we do and decisions we make. WEAT is an organization that prides itself on protecting the environment, leading scientific research and an advocate for every drop of water. The WEAT logo is a strong symbol that embodies the main brand traits of the organization.

While WEAT’s website and logo were refreshed and given a facelift, you may have also noticed an entirely new face at WEAT events. Matias Pasch is WEAT’s newest team member who has made considerable contributions to WEAT in the nearly six months he’s been on board. He is a UT graduate and part of a water legacy family. Both Melissa Sansing, who first joined WEAT as a TCEQ employee then later a team member on staff, and Matias provided a great value addition to the WEAT organization as a whole and to individual members in 2018 and will no doubt continue to do so in 2019.

2018 is also, unofficially yet undeniably, the year that Texas won WEFTEC! City of Garland took home a Safety Award, City of Houston won the Utility of the Future Award, Mary Evans became a WEF Fellow, Raj Bhattarai was voted into the Board of Trustees, and a number of WEAT/WEF members graduated from the Water Leadership Institute including Laurel Rowse of LNV in Corpus Christi and Eric Castillo, a graduate student at the University of Texas RGV ; Ops Challenge teams dominated the competition in both Division I and Division II. TRA CReWSers won Division I and North Richland Hills Pooseidons won Division II while the TRA Waste Warriors took home second-place in Division II.

Out In Front and Looking Ahead at the Federal Level

In looking ahead at the Federal level, WEAT will continue to strongly advocate for federal funding for water infrastructure, like that noted in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which includes major infrastructure funding elements like WIFIA program funding and the creation of a stormwater financing task force. WRDA demonstrates that the tide is turning in the understanding of the vitality of water funding packages. In a Federal Government that can agree on very little, WRDA passed the senate on a 99-1 vote.

We will also continue to bring you updates and track the Peak Flow Management rulemaking at the EPA, which should provide a rule package by summer 2019. WEAT leaned heavily on WEF and NACWA to inform our comments. WEAT continues to maintain that utilities need flexibility to implement all appropriate tools at hand to protect human health and the environment during peak flow events. One of these tools is blending. The practice is not the only tool, but one of many that allows overwhelmed plants to achieve compliance with permit limits.

WEAT is also watching the Agriculture Improvement Act, or Farm Bill move through Congress and hopefully towards passage. It’s passage would secure reauthorization of a wide array of agriculture, rural development, conservation, and nutrition programs through FY 2023. WEAT is specifically interested in the Title II funding that includes incentives for farmers that benefit source waters through introducing certain farming practices. Title II also includes funding and authorization for utilities to work with state technical committees in identifying their own unique areas of priority.

The EPA will also soon issue it’s revised WOTUS rule. The Water’s of the U.S. rule has been bogged down in controversy and confusion since it was first proposed by the Obama administration in 2014. WOTUS rule defines jurisdictional waters that are subject to Clean Water Act requirements. The EPA acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler has noted the goal of a revised WOTUS is to allow the landowner to more easily determine whether a waterway comes under the CWA jurisdiction and therefore is subject to permitting. A revised WOTUS rule should begin to remediate the current patchwork of application federal rule enforcement as some states fall under Obama-era WOTUS while other, like Texas, fall under pre 2014 WOTUS rule.

Like WOTUS, biosolids seems to be a topic making headlines in nearly every article I write. This issue is no different. Recently, the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA released a report that noted, among other things, that the EPA lacked data or risk assessment tools needed to determine the risk in land-applied biosolids on human health and the environment. The title of the report is initially unsettling and it is unclear what triggered the audit and investigation into a narrow scope of the chemical risk assessment process. I suggest all go to the link and read the summary of the report. It is very likely that many in the anit land-application camp will use the negative tone of this report as ammunition to push for bills that will limit access and availability of the product and land used for application. As the TCEQ is still in the midst of biosolids rulewriting, the report may also be brought up in the formal comment period. It’s important to remember that the EPA remains supportive of biosolids land application. The EPA is also transparent with their information pertaining to biosolids on their website with regard to many types of treatment, regulation, benefits, and risk concerns. Also important to note is the decrease in funding for research and oversight over the last decade in the EPA’s biosolids program. This speaks to the EPA’s understanding of such relatively low risk to human health and the environment of biosolids. However, WEAT does advocate for increased funding of the program as we recognize the value of strong federal oversight, enforcement, and research. Our utilities and the TCEQ can only benefit from increased funding presented as an strong commitment to sound science and safe practices. WEAT will continue to keep members informed of reports, comment letters, and any action taken by the EPA vis-a-vis the OIG report and 13 recommendations within. The link to the full report and report summary are found at: https://www.epa.gov/office-inspector-general/report-epa-unable-assess-impact-hundreds-unregulated-pollutants-land

Out In Front and Looking Ahead at the State Level

The state legislative front is quickly picking up pace. Pre filing has begun, the House Republicans and a few Democrats have rallied support behind the likely new Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonner, and we’ve already seen a few high priority water bills filed. The Senate Interim Harvey Report has been released, noting many stormwater related funding needs and setting the state for more state legislation and policy aimed at remediating and reducing the impact of future storm events. The first high-priority water bills that WEAT is tracking are as follows:





HB 26

Metcalf, Will

Relating to the creation of an alert system to notify affected persons of certain releases of water from certain dams.


HB 34

Raymond, Richard

Relating to a statewide disaster alert system.


HB 100

Johnson, Eric

Relating to information on projected changes in weather and water availability in strategic plans of certain state agencies.


HB 112

Swanson, Valoree

Relating to legislative review and approval of certain state agency rules.


HB 137

Hinojosa, Gina

Relating to reports by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about dams that have certain hazard classifications.


HB 230

Krause, Matt

Relating to reporting by political subdivisions regarding the receipt or expenditure of federal funds.


HB 245

Farrar, Jessica

Relating to a requirement to make certain environmental and water use permit applications available online.


HB 274

Davis, Sarah

Relating to the creation of the disaster reinvestment and infrastructure planning revolving fund and the permissible uses of that fund; making an appropriation.


HB 298


Relating to the procedure by which a state agency may issue an opinion that a watercourse is navigable.


HB 347

King, Phil

Relating to eliminating distinctions in the application of consent annexation requirements.


HB 478

Phelan, Dade

Relating to the funding of flood planning, mitigation, and infrastructure projects.


HB 481

Kuempel, John

Relating to the storage and recovery of water in a portion of the Edwards Aquifer.


HJR 11

Gonzalez, Mary

Proposing a constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.


SB 64

Nelson, Jane

Relating to cybersecurity for information resources.


SB 122

West, Royce

Relating to the procedure by which a state agency considers legislative intent when adopting an agency rule.


SB 179

Miles, Borris

Relating to the establishment of a task force to conduct a comprehensive study on flood control infrastructure for Harris County.


SB 180

Miles, Borris

Relating to applications for permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for certain new or expanded facilities in certain low-income and minority communities.


We will continue to update this list, as well as, other legislative news as it becomes available. If you would like to subscribe to WEAT’s Legislative Roundup, send an email with “subscribe” in the subject line to julie@weat.org .

Milestones are a time for reflection. With 2018 coming to a close and 2019 soon to open up in front of us, I am exceptionally proud of our members, staff, and Officers for all we have accomplished organizationally and together as a team with an indisputably vital mission. We’ve grown in membership, both in numbers, and diversity and inclusion. And with an eye towards diversity, inclusion, and workforce of the future, we’ve ratcheted up our ability to serve our mission and secure the ability to do so into the future. Looking ahead, I’m excited for Texas Water 2019, the new rule packages coming out of the TCEQ and EPA, and yes, even all of the energy and head scratching bills and comments that will come from our lawmakers in the 86th Legislative Session. Most importantly, I’m excited to continue to be part of a team that is becoming more nimble, better informed, and better able to serve our members thereby our mission with every day. Cheers to the hard work of all WEAT members in 2018! And here’s to the continued growth of WEAT and the protection and betterment of the water environment of Texas in 2019!

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