Austin City Council is considering a proposal to limit outdoor watering with automatic irrigation systems to once per week on a permanent basis.
Austin is ready for this. We’ve learned from the drought and should prepare for the next one. It’s the smart thing to do. Our rivers and lakes are ready for this. Our pocketbooks are ready for this and we need to get behind this effort.
Austin has always worked to protect and enjoy its water resources. We have already reduced water use by 8 percent with one day per week watering for several years. We are a city that takes our water supply seriously. We do not waste this precious resource. Austin also has a beautiful natural environment. It is a city of trees and inspiring landscapes that can grow with one time per week watering and has been since 2011.
One time per week watering does not mean that every front yard has to be rocks and cactus. There are countless options for landscapes that are designed for this climate; they may need additional water at certain times of the year and in certain climatic conditions. Landscapes that are beautiful and make sense for our climate can thrive with one time per week watering.
There are programs in place to help Austinites conserve water and more will be developed. One example is the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin’s Sensible Landscapes program, which responds to Austin’s need and desire to conserve water. The program provides new homeowners with a variety of landscape options, all of which conserve water and are drought tolerant. Homebuilders are providing this option in new subdivisions throughout Austin. In addition, the Sierra Club and other organizations are working to educate water providers all over Texas about water conservation best practices to give water providers the tools they need to be successful.
Austin’s population has doubled roughly every 20-25 years for the last 100 years, and there is no doubt that growth will continue for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the amount of available water does not grow at the same rate, so we have to do everything possible to protect that limited resource.
Water conservation has a powerful financial benefit for Austinites. It delays and can even eliminate the need to seek more expensive sources of water. If we can use the water that we already have as efficiently as possible, that puts money in our pockets. It will extend our current water supplies, enabling us to meet the needs of a growing population. If we plan well, we might also leave just enough in our rivers to support recreational uses, as well as fish and wildlife habitat. That is something that we can all get behind.
We believe our community has learned from the drought that gripped this region for several years. No matter how much it rains, the next dry day could be the beginning of our next drought. Are recent rains a blip in our long-standing drought? We do not know the answer to that, but we do know that using less water today makes our community more resilient when drought comes, whether it appears today or tomorrow.
Austinites deserve a lot of credit for sticking with one time per week watering for the past four years. The savings have been significant. We can keep it up.
Using water efficiently, regardless of the current weather or drought condition, is the way of life in Central Texas. Let’s set the pace for the rest of Texas on water conservation by adopting this important water-saving practice. Hats off to Austin for leading the way.
By Jennifer Walker and Hank Smith – Special to the American-Statesman
Jennifer Walker is the Water Resources Program Manager for the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter. Hank Smith is one of the owners of Texas Engineering Solutions and a past president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin