SB 1122 by Estes – Relating to a limitation on the authority to curtail groundwater production from wells used for power generation or mining.
AECT Position: Support
- SB 1122 amends the Texas Water Code to ensure that permitted or historic use of groundwater that supports a power plant or its associated mine cannot be curtailed by a groundwater conservation district (GCD).
- This bill serves one purpose: to promote a sufficient supply of electricity by protecting the historic use of groundwater by power plants and associated mines.
- Power plants use groundwater for very limited uses: to ensure boiler water remains at a constant level; provide potable water for employees; and maintain fire protection systems.
- Mines pump groundwater to enable safe excavation of the soil, control dust, dewater mines to ensure mines are not caved in, and to provide potable water for employees.
- Power plants and mines require sustained access to groundwater, as they are frequently located well outside municipal water systems.
- While power plant and mine access to groundwater is critically important, the total amount of groundwater used is very small.
- Statewide, the groundwater pumped for power and mining use in 2012 was only 1.6% of all groundwater pumped. That is a small percentage of the total groundwater pumped in Texas.
- Yet that access to groundwater is vital to the continued operation of power plants and mines, ensuring reliable electricity for the customers they serve.
SB 1122 will promote continued electric reliability by prohibiting curtailment of groundwater.
Yes, electricity is needed when water is first extracted at its source and moved to storage tanks and/or water treatment facilities. Water that ends up at the latter requires electricity for the treatment process. Once complete, electricity is used to transport the treated water to consumers, who determine if more electricity is needed to further treat the water with softeners or filters, or if energy is needed for water heat or cooling. Electricity is then needed to send a consumer’s wastewater back to a water treatment facility. From beginning to end, electricity is necessary to meet the daily water needs of consumers.
At the same time, most electric power plants depend on water for sustained, reliable operation. Most plants heat water until it becomes steam that can spin a turbine to generate electricity. This steam is later condensed, making it possible to recycle the water and make more steam. Additional water is needed to cool the steam during this condensation process.
There’s an important distinction here. While power plants usually require a great deal of access to water, very little of that water is actually consumed. The vast majority is returned – normally to a reservoir – to be used for subsequent cooling. Reservoirs created by electric generating companies are used for recreational purposes, including camping, boating, fishing and swimming.
In short, water and electricity are both important parts of Texas’ infrastructure that depend greatly on one another.
The emissions created as byproducts of power plants include nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), which are known as “criteria emissions,” and are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA also has begun regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Power plants are not the sole source of these air emissions: cars on the road, industrial manufacturing plants and even natural plant processes have high emissions rates.
Data from the EPA’s Air Markets Program shows that Texas electric generating plants emit less NOx, SO2 and CO2 per unit of power generated than the US average. This can be attributed to Texas’ relatively new, well-maintained electric generation fleet.
Although it is easy to recognize the speed at which the population of Texas is growing today, most of this growth has been in the last three decades. As more electricity was needed in Texas, and more air conditioners were plugged in, power plants were brought online. These power plants are relatively new compared to the power plants across the rest of the nation. Thus, electric generating plants in Texas often feature technologies like scrubbers that absorb SO2 before it is released into the atmosphere.
Another benefit of Texas’ generation fleet is our balanced mix of fuels. Power plants here use substantial amounts of coal, natural gas, nuclear power and wind, ensuring we don’t get too dependent on a single fuel source. So it provides a mix of reliability and low emissions.
AECT member companies take part in the stakeholder processes at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the EPA, acting and operating in accordance with environmental regulations. In total, Texas has a good story to tell on power plant emissions, regularly leading in emissions cuts while providing reliable electricity.
Proposition 6 is the constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund and provide financial assistance to for priority water projects in the state.
AECT strongly supports passage of Proposition 6 to keep our state’s infrastructure and economy strong.
Early voting runs from October 21 through November 1. Last day to apply for ballot by mail (received, not postmarked) is October 25. If you’re not early-voting, get out to the polls on November 5 to support Prop 6!
For More Information
- Proposition 6 FAQ from the Texas Water Development Board
- TX Water Prop6 Yes
- WaterTexas (Water Texas PAC)
- List of Prop 6 Supporters
- The Water for Texas 2012 State Water Plan (PDF)
Recent Media Supporting Proposition 6
- No water, no growth: Leaders push Proposition 6 as an economic issue (San Antonio Express-News, 10/9)
- Perry calls for passage of Proposition 6 (Austin American-Statesman, 10/9)
- Major water campaign Water Texas PAC raises nearly $1 million (Dallas Morning News, 10/8)
- Editorial: The droughts will win without passage of Proposition 6 (Dallas Morning News, 10/6)
- Opinion: Support Proposition 6 (Houston Chronicle, 10/4)
- Support flows, opposition simmers for water funding (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/25)
AECT Supports HB 4 by Ritter
The Electric Industry’s Role in Water Development (read the full bill here)
- Water demand for electric generation is currently 4% of total Texas water demand. The Texas Water Development Board projects this to grow to 7.4% by 2060. It is noteworthy that this minor increase in water usage is sufficient to provide electricity for a population projected to grow over the same time frame by 82%.
- Much of this water would be withdrawn and recirculated and, using once-through cooling, only a fraction of that water would be ‘consumed’ or evaporated.
- Electric generation companies have long been a partner in water development in Texas, and we will continue to be a partner that is willing to do our fair share.
- AECT and its member companies support full funding of the State Water Plan. We were active participants in developing major water legislation SB 1 in 1997, SB 2 in 2001 and SB 3 in 2007.
- Representatives of power generators serve as active members on each of the regional water planning groups that develop the state water plan.
- In addition to conservation and reuse, our companies continue to seek opportunities to develop adequate water supplies for reliable electric generation, including building pipelines to remote water sources, seeking additional water rights, adding pumping capability and using lower quality water for power plant cooling.
The electric industry depends on long-term planning and development.
- Water supply is secured in the form of water contracts or rights prior to the construction of an electric generation station.
- These contracts or rights are secured at levels to ensure a reliable long-term water supply even during drought periods.