TCEQ Begins Fireflow and Water Supply Rulemakings

Two bills passed during the 2013 regular session (H.B. 1973 and S.B. 1086) require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to develop rules addressing the problem of private utility “fireflow.” Specifically, the bills require TCEQ to set standards for the installation of fire hydrants and establish flow standards to provide enough water for fire suppression.

Investor owned water utilities (IOUs) and Water Supply Corporations (WSCs) sometimes serve areas in a city or the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Some of those utilities have poor service quality, including fire hydrants with insufficient flow.

Rather than deal with local citizens’ concerns about their lack of service, some utilities have simply painted their fire hydrants black and stopped providing the service.

As urban areas grow, conflicts between cities and IOUs or WSCs holding a certificate of convenience and necessity inside a city or its extraterritorial jurisdiction have escalated. A city that jumps the hurdles necessary to annex and/or provide service to an area that was formerly in the certificated area of such a provider must often spend large amounts of money to upgrade infrastructure to provide basic fire protection capability.

Another bill, H.B. 252, passed in 2013. It requires TCEQ to develop rules that specify the manner in which a retail public utility, which includes a municipally owned utility, and each entity from which the utility is obtaining wholesale water service can report to TCEQ when available water supply is less than 180 days. Before the enactment of this legislation, reporting less than 180 days of water was optional for cities.

The stakeholder meeting on the above rulemakings will take place on September 18, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. in Building D, Room 191, at the TCEQ central office located in Austin at 12100 Park 35 Circle. Please contact Elston Johnson at 512-239-6266 or elston.johnson@tceq.texas.gov with questions.

 

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.

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