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Alternate form of cremation proving popular

Posted at 8:57 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 21:57:39-05

CENTRAL TEXAS — It's not a topic we like to think about, but at some point, it comes time to ponder how we wish to be memorialized after death.

Baylor student Clay Jeha says he'd like to be cremated, something he concluded after careful consideration.

"I've thought about it like a decent amount," said Jeha. "I've talked about it with my family, like when we've had family members pass and stuff."

Jeha isn't particularly invested in how the procedure is carried out, but others may find the harshness of fire to be at odds with the sense of peace they hope to find in a memorial service. That's where water cremation comes in.

Also called alkaline hydrolysis, it's a process that dissolves a body in a chemical solution. 95 percent of it is water, the other 5 percent is potassium hydroxide. The solution is heated to speed up the process. The bone remains are similar to that of cremated ashes.

"It is increasing in popularity," said Mike Wilfong, general manager of Waco Memorial Funeral Home. "I've probably had a few people ask about it."

One reason that more people are turning to water cremation is that it's more environmentally friendly. There's no burning of fossil fuels, making it a "greener" alternative. After being introduced to the idea, Jeha says it's something he'd consider.

"After I die I don't care what happens," said Jeha. "So like, if that's what's easiest, or like most cost-efficient for my family to do, then yeah."

Easy, perhaps, but cost-efficient, not really. Many funeral homes don't offer the service because of the high operating cost. For those that do, the service carries a high price tag.

"I think one of the issues that we, the industry, have come into, is that it's relatively expensive at this point," said Wilfong.

But even if you're willing to pay a higher price for the service, you'll have to look outside the state of Texas. Alkaline hydrolysis is legal here for pets but not for humans.

Texans who wish to carry out a water cremation have to ship the body to another state for it to be performed. A bill to allow the process was introduced in the Texas house in 2017, but it didn't get past the committee state.

19 states currently allow water cremation as a legal method for body disposal. The closest to Central Texas is Kansas.