More to do on water conservation issues
Comptroller states water challenges go far beyond voter-approved $2 billion
By Ken Esten Cooke— The years-long drought has amplified what is a growing concern for Texas and its economy: the need for ample supplies of fresh water.
As of last October, about 27 percent of the state’s community water systems were under voluntary or mandatory water restrictions (including Fredericksburg’s).
Though voters in November approved $2 billion in seed money for water projects statewide, much has yet to be done, and we are hopeful that encouraged innovations will bring about ways to create, reuse or otherwise tap into previously unused water sources.
Mindsets and habits must be part of the change equation as well. One recent study, the Texas Water Resources Institute found that while agricultural irrigation averaged less than 18 inches per acre annually, the city of College Station found average households applied 22 inches annually to lawns.
Some promising technologies exist to help with the state’s water challenges:
• Aquifer storage and recovery is providing a less-expensive and less-invasive alternative to traditional above-ground reservoirs.
• Just as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has re-ignited the state’s oil and gas industries, now some shale energy producers have developed low-water and water free fracking techniques. That has the potential to reduce that industry’s need for water.
• Though desalination is in use in limited areas — El Paso has a successful plant, and San Antonio is building one — these investment costs may pale in comparison to doing nothing.
The comptroller’s recommendations included:
• Establishing a program to help water authorities and major water users establish meaningful increases in water efficiency due to conservation activities. Efforts could include water reuse and reductions in water loss with infrastructure improvements, the “low-hanging fruit” of the water picture.
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