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Environment Texas: Spend More Money To Save More Water

BJ Austin

A Texas environmental group wants state lawmakers to spend more on water conservation programs as a key way to ensure the state has enough water for a growing population. 

Environment Texas says new water conservation measures in agriculture, landscaping and energy production could save 500 billion gallons of water a year in 2020.

Andrew Quicksall, SMU engineer and water expert says the biggest immediate impact could come from agriculture, which is responsible for 56 percent of the state’s water demand. He says changing to drip irrigation from overhead sprinklers is one option. It uses less water, loses less to evaporation and is more beneficial to crops.

“Agriculture can really impact the runoff and irrigation concerns that we have by utilizing already existing technology and already existing equipment," Quicksall said at the release of a new Environment Texas report on conservation. "What we need are policies and incentive structures to push that along.”

In Dallas and Fort Worth, about 40 percent of annual water use is for outdoor watering, keeping up the lawn.  Texas Master Naturalist Richard Grayson says drought resistant landscaping could save a lot of water.

“If we increase the amount of drought tolerant plants and landscaping instead of traditional lawns, we could reduce water withdrawls from rivers by 14 billion gallons by 2020, or as much as 260,000 Texans would use in a year,” Grayson said.

The report also calls on the natural gas industry to use recycled or brackish water for fracking instead of fresh water. And power plants could save a lot of water if they used more wind and solar power for cooling.

Funding for water projects and programs in a House bill provides 20 percent for conservation. It’s 10 percent in the Senate bill.  Environment Texas wants 50 percent spent on conservation, water reuse, and repairs to leaky water pipes, which leak billions of gallons each year. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.