Photo: Paul Huchton
By far, the least expensive, most efficient source of new water is water we save through conservation. State water planners currently expect Texas to utilize conservation methods to provide for over 24 percent of needed water supplies over the next 50 years. To meet this goal, we must strongly support conservation at the state, regional and local levels and be prepared to participate in conservation activities.
In 2012, Voters approved the funding of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) has injected two-billion dollars of seed money to fund management strategies and capital projects. Of that two-billion dollars, at least 20 percent must be spent on conservation measures with an additional 10 percent spent on rural and agricultural conservation management strategies.
In the Hill Country, cities and agriculture are the largest water users. Cities can promote conservation by locating and repairing infrastructure leaks, educating the public about conservation and promoting conservation through financial incentives, among other strategies. Many new technologies and financial incentives are available to help farmers and ranchers conserve, including laser field leveling and channel lining. State and federal resources are available to help agricultural users conserve water.
Individual conservation behavior is a critical component of success for these programs. Homeowners can conserve water by:
- Replacing old toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers with new low-flow or water-efficient models. Reducing outdoor water use through early-morning or evening watering, replacement of old sprinkler systems, utilization of native plants and rainwater harvesting. See HCA information on rainwater harvesting here and native plants here.
- Checking for leaks in your water lines and repairing them.
- Planting only native grasses and plants that require minimal watering.
- Taking shorter showers and turning off water when you’re not using it (while brushing your teeth or doing dishes). Save any water you must run for watering plants.
- Running only full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher.
- Installing a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
- Purchasing a shut-off nozzle for your hose.
- Installing rainwater harvesting systems to supplement your water needs as you are able.
Holistic Conservation Management Practices = One Water
As the Hill Country continues to grow at unprecedented rates, we need to plan ahead for how we will conserve our limited and precious water supplies. Our current rate of consumption and management practices are creating a growing water deficit. This deficit will have negative impacts on the springs and streams that fish and wildlife depend on; the water that we use for domestic, irrigation, and recreational purposes; and negatively affect our vibrant economy and property values. What tools are available to more efficiently use the water that we already have to protect our natural water systems?
“One Water” is defined by the Water Research Foundation as an integrated planning and implementation approach to managing finite water resources for long-term resilience and reliability, meeting both community and ecosystem needs. Simply put, One Water is the consideration of all water resources – including rainwater, drinking water, wastewater, and non-traditional water resources like air-conditioning condensate – as part of the same water system. These resources are used conjunctively – as efficiently and effectively as possible for the benefit of the economy, society, and the environment as possible.
In practice, One Water is a growing set of tested engineering and management tools that can help create independence from traditional pipeline based management methods. Most ranchers have practiced some form of these principles for generations in order to slow water down and keep it on the ranch as long as possible. Rainwater cisterns, contour plowing, and vegetation management are just a few of the traditional ranching tools that can be adapted to new development in order to reduce waste and optimize efficiency. New commercial and residential development in our communities can also be designed and built with One Water efficiency measures that can offset future water demand.
The 19th Century model of running miles and miles of expensive fresh-water pipelines through our rocky Hill Country ground, and then doing the same in reverse to remove the “waste” water is expensive from both an infrastructure and a raw water cost perspective. Engineers are rethinking the status quo of water management practices, and are working to advance management techniques that integrate more resilient strategies – managing water closer to the site where it is generated and used.
Communities across America are beginning to incorporate One Water techniques for a variety of reasons, ranging from an interest in strengthening their water independence, water systems resiliency and reliability, or decreasing reliance on overburdened wastewater facilities. In communities with limited technical expertise or financial resources One Water techniques can seem cost prohibitive; however, in the long run One Water approaches often represent a cost savings over traditional water infrastructure.
Utilization of the One Water approach is best executed when implemented at the design phase and can be carried out at optimal scales. When designing new homes, commercial buildings, schools, subdivisions, or designing an ordinance; engineers, builders, city planners, and utility managers should consider how water can be conserved, reused, stored, and processed on site to maximize efficiency and water independence. Tools such as water efficient fixtures, grey water plumbing, rainwater harvesting, stormwater management, and even on-site wastewater reuse can be designed into the project as a whole system.
The One Water approach looks for opportunities to use new buildings as additional sources of water, not simply new demands on traditional water sources. It seeks the triple bottom line — providing benefits for humans, the environment, and the economy.
The HCA collaborates within several stakeholder groups to affect good water stewardship by expanding our geographic footprint and constituency.
The Texas Water Roundtable is composed of traditional stakeholder groups with an emphasis on industrial partners. Within this group, HCA has elevated the recognition that healthy economies rely on healthy spring-flow rates and clean water — and that conservation is the most fiscally viable means to that end.
The Roundtable has created six videos covering a wide range of contemporary water topics. These educational videos provide insights from water leaders across the state and offer direction for policy makers and business leaders to meet the growing demand for water.
The films are being released January 2018 and will premiere at the State Capital Annex Auditorium on April 11th from 1-3pm: (click links below to watch)
- Feature film all five topics, 60 minutes. Click here to watch …
- Texas Water Challenges, 10 minutes. Click here to watch ….
- Water Economics and Pricing, 10 minutes. Click here to watch …
- Water Education, 10 minutes. Click here to watch …
- New Water, 10 minutes. Click here to watch …
- Surface/Groundwater, 10 minutes. Click here to watch …
- Film trailer with testimonials, 3 minutes. Click here to watch …
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Hill Country View