Report: Conservation Could Save 500 Billion Gallons of Water per Year, Helping Rivers and Whooping Cranes

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Environment Texas

AUSTIN – Strategies to conserve water in agriculture, landscaping and energy production could save 500 billion gallons of water per year in 2020, according to a new Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report. The report comes a week after a federal judge ordered the state of Texas to keep more water in the Guadalupe River to support endangered whooping cranes and as the Legislature considers funding a fifty year water plan.

“In every sector of water use, new technologies and better management practices can enable us to get more out of a gallon of water,” said Luke Metzger, Director of  Environment Texas. “We can’t control when it rains, but we can control how we use water.”

The report found that Texas could save 500 billion gallons of water per year in 2020, enough to meet the needs of 9 million Texans. This is also equal to 150% of the growth in demand for water identified by the Texas Water Development Board from 2010 to 2020. Environment Texas suggested that conservation could help meet much of our future water needs, while freeing up water to meet the needs of our rivers and coastal estuaries. Last week, a federal judge ruled the state of Texas had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to provide for sufficient flows of water in the Guadalupe River.

The report calculated the water savings potential by improving irrigation practices in agriculture, increasing use of drought-tolerant landscaping, requiring use of brackish or recycled water in fracking, repairing leaking municipal water mains and increasing use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The group pointed to models the state of Texas can look to. For example, the city of San Antonio has grown 65% while using the same amount of water thanks to education programs and rebates for efficient toilets and drought-tolerant landscaping. Using electronic leak detection equipment, the city of Arlington has identified leaks in broken water mains equal to 5 percent of the water flowing through its system. Wind energy in Texas currently saves enough water to meet the needs of 130,000 Texans. Lining irrigation canals in the Rio Grande Valley is saving 70 to 95 percent of water that would seep back into the ground in unlined canals.

Environment Texas called on the Legislature to set aside at least half of any water funding for conservation, reuse, repairs to leaking water mains, and to purchase water rights to protect flows in our rivers for wildlife and recreation.

The group also recommended TWDB conduct a technical feasibility analysis of water conservation potential and develop a funding prioritization process that considers the environmental impact of water projects.