With the state’s population skyrocketing, limited water resources, and global warming, water reuse is a growing but still underutilized solution to ensuring Texas has a clean and plentiful supply of water to long term.
the last of the state water plan projects that direct reuse of non-potable water could produce up to 180,000 acre-feet of water – enough to fill nearly 90,000 Olympic-size swimming pools – each year by 2030. Austin 100-year water body estimates that nearly a third of the city’s future water supplies could be achieved through water reuse.
Such projects are more and more common. Credit Human’s new head office in San Antonio collects and reuses rainwater and air conditioning condensate, allowing it to use 97% less drinking water than comparable buildings. Austin’s landscape is strewn with public and commercial properties which reuse rainwater, condensate and even sewage, expanding the city’s main water supplies from the Colorado River and Highland Lakes.
Yet while these efforts deliver water savings and long-term financial value to landowners, the large-scale adoption of water reuse is not happening quickly enough. Even with San Antonio and Austin offers generous financial incentives for water reuse – Austin’s incentives were approved just a few months ago – most developers choose not to pursue these projects.
Among the main hurdles that hold back developers are the upfront capital costs.
Fortunately, Texas has an interesting solution: the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE funding was established in 2013 to overcome similar financial barriers to energy efficiency and traditional investments in water conservation. The main strength of PACE is that it allows developers to invest in energy and water improvements with little or no of their own initial capital. To date, more than $ 155 million in PACE funding has been mobilized for energy and water efficiency projects in Texas.
These numbers are impressive, but very little is spent on water reuse.
This month, Texas Water Trade and the National Wildlife Federation released a new report to fill this gaping hole.
The study clearly indicates that PACE is an effective tool to enable water reuse projects, but with an important caveat: due to the lower cost savings of water reuse compared to water reuse measures. energy efficiency – a testament to the grossly undervalued price of water – many projects will require utilities. discounts or co-financing with energy efficiency measures to benefit from PACE funding.
The study offers specific recommendations that will help more water reuse projects qualify for funding, including:
Combine water reuse and energy efficiency: Developers should consider bundling water reuse and energy efficiency measures in seeking PACE funding.
Develop incentives for water reuse: Municipalities and utilities should consider offering financial incentives that can make or break a developer’s ability to finance water reuse with PACE funding.
Funding of public projects: Since public properties are not eligible for PACE, the state’s LoanSTAR program is a viable alternative to fund water reuse projects on state and municipal properties, including schools.
The legislature should expand PACE to include Greenfield projects: PACE financing in Texas excludes developments on so-called Greenfield sites. The legislature should expand PACE to allow such projects.
With thousands of people moving to Texas every week, the state’s water problems don’t go away. Water reuse has proven that it can play a key role in meeting future water needs, but only if we find ways to scale these projects exponentially. PACE and LoanSTAR funding can help do this, especially if municipalities, utilities and policy makers do their part to facilitate the qualification of more developers.
Leurig is CEO of the Texas Water Trade nonprofit group, and Walker is deputy director of the Texas Coast and Water Program at the National Wildlife Federation.