AUSTIN (KXAN) – In a new report, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) detailed the importance of utilizing water reuse, or recycled water, to combat water scarcity in the booming Hill Country counties.
The Texas Hill Country region, due to its unique environment, is already vulnerable to water shortages caused by drought and water contamination from water disposal practices. On top of this, the region has seen unprecedented growth in recent years, prompting officials to come up with solutions for challenges brought on by population growth and water scarcity, as well as preserving existing water supplies.
“Water reuse – using reclaimed and treated wastewater – is an integral step in ensuring that counties in the Hill Country will have the water supplies they need to ensure the health, safety, and quality of life of residents in the years to come,” the GEAA wrote in a summary of the report.
Water reuse can be used as an alternative to existing water supplies and protect those supplies by diverting wastewater that otherwise would be disposed into “sensitive” waterways. Despite the benefits, GEAA points out that many Hill County counties don’t utilize the resource.
GEAA used Comal County, northeast of San Antonio, as a case study in the report to illuminate the advantages of developing water reuse districts in the Hill Country region. Researchers said that the water in the county is drawn from Edwards Aquifer wells, Trinity Aquifer wells, the Guadalupe River and Canyon Lake.
While only 1.5% of the total water use was sourced from recycled water, or water reuse, it was estimated that up to one-third of the county’s total water use could come from recycled water. Further, the GEAA points out that the Texas Water Development Board estimates that recycled water will need to make up 15% of the state’s water supply by 2070 to keep up with future water demands.
“The status of water reuse in Comal County underscores both the long way Hill Country counties have to go in implementing water reuse systems and the unique opportunities present to do so within their boundaries,” the organization wrote.
“We advocate for using reuse water for all of those non-potable water sources,” said Rachel Hanes, policy director for GEAA. “Irrigating your lawns or irrigating sports complexes, using it for mining or industrial things – anything that we don’t need drinking water [for].”
Hanes said the GEAA conducted this report in part to provide information to legislators ahead of the 2025 legislative session.
“We really wanted to have this report available so that we can have lawmakers conduct an interim charge in preparation for the 2025 legislative session to study how these districts could be implemented and how they could be authorized,” Hanes continued.