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Water Conservation Education Plan For Texas Unveiled; Funding Sought

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

"Water IQ - Know Your Water," a new statewide water conservation initiative, was unveiled today at the state capitol, and two key lawmakers are ready to launch efforts to persuade their colleagues of the need for $15 million in state funds to put a water conservation education plan in place in Texas.

The education program proposal is part of the Water Conservation Implementation Task Force's Report to the 79th Legislature, according to Kevin Ward, executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board.

Ward said the task force's proposal for an education plan is designed "to first educate Texans where their water comes from - beyond the tap," and to teach them to be more efficient with their water at home. Officials will be seeking a 1 percent savings of water per capita per year. By 2010, such a savings would support the indoor water needs of 780,000 Texans for their entire indoor use for a year, said Ward. "Knowledge is power," said Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), who along with Rep. Robert Puente (D-San Antonio), carried legislation during the 78th Legislature that created the task force. For conservation to be successful, he said, the public needs to know when and what to do to conserve water. Duncan said that although Texas has had plentiful water in the past, the growth of both the state's population and its economy has resulted in water supplies not keeping up with that growth. He called it "critical" for Texans to have knowledge regarding water conservation. "If we don't do it today, the cost will be much greater tomorrow."

Puente said that although most Texans think it is important to conserve water, they generally think it is important for others to conserve. "It's a task for everyone," he said, including individuals, cities, industry and agriculture. He pointed out that most use "a whole lot more water" outside their homes than inside.

Duncan and Puente said they are hopeful they can educate their fellow lawmakers regarding the need for the education campaign, which they would like to see be as visible and the anti-litter "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign.

Ward said now is the time to begin educating Texans regarding what they need to do to conserve water, and to stress how important conservation is. "The future of the state is dependent on our education today," he said.

Puente said it will be his and Duncan's and the task force's goal "to show spending this $15 million will come back tenfold," and that individuals as well as business can benefit if they conserve water.

"Conservation is the first key element of any water plan in Texas," said Duncan, adding, "Knowledge is power." He said the best way to implement that power is by investing in a conservation program today. "And it starts with education." He stressed that conservation is not just important for individuals, but also for industry and agriculture. Changes in water consumption are "critical" to the state's future, said Duncan, noting that the $15 million for an education program is a "small investment to get that started."

Duncan said that significant water conservation programs in Texas already have been initiated in the agriculture industry, where two demonstration projects are under way and aimed at educating agriculture producers to show them how to reduce the amount of water they use while maintaining the same profit levels. He said those two projects should be continued and should be a priority of the current legislative session.

Puente said efforts should be continued to make water conservation at a level such that it's "an everyday thing for everyone in Texas."

If the state is faced with a water shortage in the future, said Ward, the economy will suffer and there will be decreased tax revenue to the state and fewer jobs available to Texans. "And you can't bring about positive change without public education."

Ward said while only 28 percent of Texans know the natural source of their drinking water, 87 percent are more likely to conserve water if they are aware of its importance. He said a "smart, effective" education campaign is necessary, especially because 98 percent of Texans think conservation is important and support a statewide water conservation campaign. "The more Texans know about their water, the more likely they are to conserve," he said.