It’s true that in many ways, 2019 brings us more of the same: Texas is growing, the climate is changing, and we’re in a race to figure out how Texans can thrive in a not-so-distant reality of tumultuous flooding, harrowing droughts, and less fresh, drinkable water.
But we ended 2018 on a high note thanks to the City of Austin’s leadership in passing a 100-year water supply plan, and we’re starting the new year strong and inspired. 2019 may bring some of the same challenges, but it also brings new opportunities for us all to build a future with fresh water for every living thing.
Whether you welcome the new year by setting resolutions, intentions, or nothing at all, here are some ways you can stand up for the life force that makes everything else possible: fresh water.
1. Track your monthly water usage.
This one is easy and keeps water on your mind year-round: when you receive your water bill each month, look at how much water you used. Make a note of it somewhere you can look back on and, in the same place, add the totals from each new month as the year goes by. While it’s typical for water use to fluctuate over different seasons, you should be able to quickly establish a general baseline for how much water you use.
This is useful for two reasons: 1) If your water usage spikes one month, you’ll know so that you can check to see whether you have a water leak and need to make repairs. 2) You can challenge yourself to save water around the home and track your success to help you stay motivated.
2. Make sure your water provider is planning for the future of your community’s water.
Most Texas water utilities are required to create documents that detail how they will conserve water for their communities. These documents, called Water Conservation Plans, should be available on your water provider’s website so that you can read them and make sure your provider is proactively planning to protect your community’s water supply. (For example, the City of Waco’s water conservation plan is included on this page and it comes up when you use a search engine to search for Waco water conservation plan.)
If you can’t find your utility’s plan online, reach out to them and ask them to increase their transparency by adding the plan to their website. You can also advocate for your community’s water by asking them how they’re involving the public in this planning. These planning documents are due every five years, and the next deadline is this May; that means now is the time your water provider should be reaching out to the people who depend on them to make wise plans for community water.
Not sure who provides your water? This information is listed on your monthly water bill.
3. Learn about where your water comes from now, and where it may come from in the future.
Water advocacy starts by understanding where your water comes from. Many water providers list their supply sources online, which means that information is often a quick search away. (For example, if you live in Houston and search Houston water supply source, the first result is this page from City of Houston’s Public Works Department that includes a section about where the city gets its water.)
If you’re unable to find this information online, you can call your water provider and ask. Water providers are used to getting questions like this and should be able to quickly share this information with you.
After you know more about your community’s current water supply, it’s time to discover what water supply projects have been proposed for your town or city. You can do this by visiting the State Water Plan website and using the search bar to view data for: Water User Group > Type in the name of your town or city. Press Go and then scroll to the Water Management Strategies section of the page.
To better understand the pros and cons of different water supply strategies that may have been proposed for your community, visit our Best Bets for Texas Water guide. If you have concerns about any of the strategies that have been proposed, reach out to your water provider and/or city council members to share your concerns. You can also encourage them to fully invest in water conservation before constructing costly water supply projects.
4. Rethink how you water your lawn.
Use the Water My Yard website to discover how much water the experts recommend for your lawn – you might be surprised by how little it really needs to thrive! You can take that newfound knowledge and use it for good by following the recommendations.
5. Ask your community to rethink how they water their lawns.
If Texans only watered outdoor landscapes twice a week, the state could save the same amount of water each year that it would take to flood 381,839 football fields with a foot of water. You can use our sample script to contact your community leaders and ask them to implement ordinances that limit outdoor irrigation to no more than twice per week.
(Dallas, Austin, Frisco, Fort Worth and the Woodlands have already done this!)
6. Level up your household appliances.
If the time comes to replace any major household items this year, upgrade to a model that has the Energy Star designation. Energy Star is the government-backed symbol for energy-efficient products and appliances; these appliances include dishwashers and clothes washers that use less water to accomplish the same task as a less efficient machine.
Even Energy Star products that don’t directly use water, like fridges, televisions and light bulbs, help watersheds by using less electricity. This is because water is a necessary part of the production process for many types of energy – the more electricity you use, the more water is used to generate that electricity. This relationship is called the “water-energy nexus.”
While energy-efficient appliances can require a larger upfront investment, you’ll save money on your energy and water bills and may even qualify for some rebates.
7. Take time to explore and enjoy Texas waters.
Texas’ waterways are truly remarkable. Kindle your love for Texas water and wildlife by taking the time to explore our rivers, creeks and bays in 2019. For extra brownie points, take a reusable bag along for the adventure and pick up trash and other litter along the way. Texas bass, otters and herons will thank you!