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Designing Water Rate Structures for Conservation and Revenue Stability

As we have written many times before, water conservation is critical to meeting the future water needs of Texas.  Many programs may be implemented to reduce water use, and a number of utilities across the State are making strong efforts to advance water conservation. One of the most effective methods to driving conservation is water pricing.  Used effectively, price can provide a signal to users regarding the value and supply of water so they can adjust their demand accordingly. Unfortunately, rates are also the primary revenue mechanism for utilities that are also tasked with protecting public health and the environment. This can create a disincentive to increase conservation.  Fixing this conflict requires rethinking...

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Making Waves in San Antonio

While water is always a big topic for those of us at the blog, it has been a particular busy couple of weeks for water in San Antonio.  With a flurry of town hall meetings, film sneak peeks and big announcements, we thought it was time to catch up readers who may have missed the action. SAWS’s Big Announcement First, you might remember that San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) was reviewing several groundwater purchase proposals.  Throughout the process, concerns were raised about transparency and whether the city really needed an additional 50,000 acre-feet of water.  Also, folks surrounding the Val Verde county proposal area were very worried about the long-term effects of the export. On February...

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Gulf Coast Water Providers get Immersed in Water Conservation

If there’s one topic that draws a crowd in Texas these days it’s how to meet our state’s water supply challenges. That’s why 150+ people turned out on a cold winter day in Houston for the 3rd Annual Gulf Coast Water Conservation Symposium, held on January 23rd.  This conference focused on the region that covers the Houston-Galveston area, including fast-growing suburban Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties. The goal of the symposium was to provide area elected officials, senior government managers, water utility staff, business and community leaders, and advocates crucial information about water conservation best practices from state and national leaders so that they may plan for and implement programs that reduce water...

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Using Our “Good Cents” to Reduce Water Loss

What if someone came to you and said that they would like you to loan them $100, but you knew that person usually lost or wasted at least $15 to $20 or more of each $100 they had? You probably would be reluctant to give them a loan without a commitment that they would stop wasting so much money and without a plan to follow through on that commitment, right? That’s the approach the Texas Legislature took last year when legislators overwhelmingly passed HB 3605 – a bipartisan bill by Democratic State Rep. Lon Burnam (and others) and Republican State Senator Glen Hegar. Among its provisions, HB 3605 requires a retail public water utility...

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Happy New Year!!!!

Happy Holidays!  Here at the blog, we have been taking advantage of a slight lull in water news to rest up from a busy year and gear up for many important, upcoming issues.  It seems with each year, water becomes an increasingly urgent issue. We are thankful to be involved in this topic and we are most grateful to dedicated readers like yourself who chose to learn more and get involved.  Like many issues, the fate of water is too important to be determined by only a few.  It requires widespread participation to ensure that Texas’s water needs (human and otherwise) are met. Before we close out 2013, it is worth a quick review...

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What Can You Do Now That Proposition 6 Passed?

As you may have seen, Texans took historic action on November 5 when they overwhelmingly approved Proposition 6, the state constitutional amendment to create new funding for water projects in regional water plans (the building blocks for the state water plan). With passage of Prop 6, $2 billion will be transferred from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to the new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), and several provisions in HB 4, companion legislation passed by the Legislature earlier this year, will take effect. Next Steps Now the real work begins.  Successful implementation of Prop 6 and HB 4 is not automatic. Passing legislation is one thing, but ensuring that the goals of new...

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Let’s Talk About Turf

Now that we have survived another hot, dry summer and are firmly in the fall season, it is time to turn off the irrigation systems and take a moment to think about lawns. Outdoor water use can be a significant part of a household’s total water use, especially if the home has an irrigation system.  Homes with irrigation systems can use 50% to 100% more water on average than homes where someone manually irrigates with a hose and/or sprinkler. What Cities Can Do A new study from the Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M shows that 46.6% of municipal water use is for “urban irrigation”, defined as lawns and golf courses.  This amounts to 2.262...

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Land Use Choices Change Water Demand Projections

Cities across Texas are tasked with the daunting job of ensuring adequate water for their citizens into the future.  Decisions that are made regarding new supply of each can have large economic consequences for existing customers, but not pursuing supply may have dire consequences for the sustainability of the city.  Unfortunately, this fear of running out can cloud discussions about how much new water is really needed.  The key to getting this right is land use.  Too bad land use is often left out of conversations about expanding water resources. Hopefully, the conversation will change.  Next week, I will be taking part in the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum, which will bring city leaders...

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Losing in Vegas – Water & Money!

This blog post was written by Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club Most people who go to Las Vegas probably worry about losing money. Those of us here in Vegas at the Sixth Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference, hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, worry about losing water. But water losses often mean lost revenue for water utilities; and if your water utility is losing too much water in its distribution system, it could be gambling with your community’s future. Maybe that’s why utility water loss was the topic of several sessions at the national water conservation conference I’m attending in Vegas. “Water loss” is a slippery term (pardon...

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What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas!

This blog post was written by Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club Sometimes being a water conservation advocate is tough work. For example, this week I had to travel to Las Vegas to attend the Sixth Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference, the most prominent gathering of water conservation professionals and significant others held each year, hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. This is the third one that I’ve attended, and I learn something new about water conservation and efficiency each year. Because water conservation is such an important part of the Texas Living Waters Project – and so important for the future of Texas – I’d like to...

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