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Water Cremation is Illegal in Texas, but Why

The majority of people are choosing cremation. People are more environmentally focused than ever. Yet, water cremation is illegal in Texas. But, why?
Water Cremation is Illegal in Texas, but Why
Young sad girl shows a white sticker. Caucasian brunette holding a sheet of paper with message. Why?

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The majority of people today are choosing cremation over burial in part because the options are more environmentally friendly. Even though there is demand for the service and it’s considered one of the greenest forms of disposition, water cremation is illegal in Texas. But, why?

House Bills That Failed to Legalize Alkaline Hydrolysis in Texas

Years ago Texas House Bill 1155 was filed. The purpose of that bill was to legalize alkaline hydrolysis in Texas, a funeral service more commonly known as water cremation or aquamation. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the house. The last activity on the bill was back in April of 2017 when a favorable report for the bill was submitted by the Public Health House Committee. The bill was then sent to the House Calendars Committee for consideration.

House Bill 1155 was never even voted on.

So, what happened? The bill was actually submitted by House Democrat Bobby Guerra and Republican Sarah Davis. Early on there seemed to be bipartisan support for the bill. However, the bill just simply wasn’t prioritized and fell by the wayside.

Texas representatives again tried to legalize water cremation a few years later in 2019. During the 86th Legislature HB 773 was introduced. Just as before it was a bipartisan bill that sought to legalize alkaline hydrolysis. But it suffered the same fate as HB 1155. It was sent to the House Calendars Committee and then died in the chamber about a quarter of the way through the approval process. 

House Bill 1404 was submitted in 2021 to legalize alkaline hydrolysis. However, this time House Bill 1404 stalled even sooner. It was referred to the Public Health House Committee, just as the other bills before it, but that’s where it ended. 

The most recent attempt to legalize water cremation in Texas came in 2023. Senate Bill 105 aimed to provide all Texans with the freedom to choose their final disposition by making alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction legal in the state. Unfortunately, SB 105 was left pending in committee after a public hearing and testimony was heard in committee.  

Today, more and more Texans are interested in alkaline hydrolysis and are becoming frustrated with the state’s inability to get a bill passed that would guarantee them equal access to all safe disposition options. Cremation.Green alone has helped hundreds of local families arrange water cremation services through our partner in Missouri. We know firsthand that water cremation is an end of life service that many Texans want to choose. The only problem is a few key parties are standing in the way. 

Why There’s Been Opposition to Alkaline Hydrolysis in Texas

As more and more states legalize alkaline hydrolysis no progress has been made to allow it in Texas, and there’s a reason why.  

In late 2018, Dallas County rejected the idea of using alkaline hydrolysis to cremate unclaimed bodies, despite the fact that UT Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center uses the same method for those who donate their bodies for medical research. The reason for rejecting the use of water cremation wasn’t a matter of cost, safety or efficiency. It was because some Dallas County commissioners thought the practice was distasteful. They used their own personal preference to make the decision for everyone else.

When you consider the history of alkaline hydrolysis legalization in Texas and other states, that isn’t very surprising. There have been three primary groups opposing alkaline hydrolysis legalization. They are:

  • Legislators who personally don’t agree with the practice for reasons outside of legality, safety or public opinion.
  • Some religions that oppose cremation, sometimes in any form.
  • Casket makers who understand another cremation option could further cut into their sales.

An example of religious opposition came in 2019. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops released a statement that year opposing HB 773, “because it allows for the aqua cremation of human remains using alkaline hydrolysis.” The group felt that alkaline hydrolysis is, “disrespectful of the human body and does not allow for burial of the body.”

While cremation is now acceptable in the Catholic religion there are limitations, and there is still clear preference for burial over cremation.

On the opposite side is the group that suggested alkaline hydrolysis be allowed for unclaimed bodies. It was the Dallas County medical examiner’s office that suggested the process be used. Their reasoning – it could serve as a backup or alternative method of disposal in addition to traditional cremation. It’s a reasonable suggestion given the county experienced problems in the past when a crematorium that was used for disposal burned down.

When you analyze the debate around whether or not alkaline hydrolysis should be legal in Texas it becomes clear that opposition is mainly rooted in personal feelings. On the other end, legalization advocates point toward the improved safety, affordability and reduced impact on the environment as reasons for legalizing alkaline hydrolysis. Furthermore, no one is advocating that alkaline hydrolysis replace current disposal methods but simply that it be another legal option in the state. Texans don’t have to choose it if they don’t want to, but they should at least have a choice.

For those reasons, many Texans are hopeful that alkaline hydrolysis will be legalized in the near future as the process becomes more common around the country.

One Instance When Alkaline Hydrolysis is Legal in Texas

Right now there is one instance where alkaline hydrolysis is legal in Texas. The state anatomical board at UTSW are able to use water cremation for body disposition. This is something that alkaline hydrolysis advocates emphasize. UTSW has proven many times over that alkaline hydrolysis is a highly safe and effective means of body disposition.

The only thing holding legalization back is politicians that personally don’t like the idea of alkaline hydrolysis and special interest groups that oppose any type of cremation because it detracts from their own services. And because of that, personal interests and opinions are taking a viable disposition option away from millions of Texans.If you’d like to learn more about the alkaline hydrolysis process or how to arrange water cremation in Texas, please contact our team. We’re available 24 hours a day 7 days a week to discuss the alkaline hydrolysis process.

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Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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