Saving Money and Water During Drought

While droughts can be economically damaging for a region, particularly in agricultural areas, drought response planning can help a region prepare for droughts and minimize a drought’s economic impact.

Many water planners propose that we should build enough dams, pipelines and pumps to fully supply even the most extravagant uses of water during severe droughts. However, constructing new water supply capacity solely to meet nonessential water uses during severe droughts is a fiscally irresponsible use of public dollars.

By reducing non-essential uses, such as lawn watering and car washing, during peak demand periods in summer, especially during drought periods, water suppliers can reduce the size of the necessary infrastructure, resulting in a tremendous economic savings.

Lawn watering, iStock

In a 2012 survey of 18 Texas cities, The Texas Living Waters Project found water use increases by an average of 58% percent during the summer months primarily because of landscape watering. If these 18 cities could reduce this increase by just 25%, they could save a combined 147 million gallons every day during the summer.

For example, in San Antonio, drought restrictions reduced total water use by an estimated 24,000 to 30,000 acre-feet in San Antonio during the extremely dry year of 2009. This reduction was on top of San Antonio’s already low per-capita water use. Implementation of these restrictions to meet water needs cost an estimated $25 per acre-foot, which is many times less than the cost of developing new water supplies to meet summer peak demand.

SAWS 2009 Drought Management Water Savings

In addition, due to drought management measures, water use in Lubbock during the 2011 drought fell by 25%.

Drought Contingency Planning

Water utilities across the state prepare for droughts by developing tactical plans, called drought contingency plans, to reduce peak demands and extend water supplies during a drought.

Drought in Texas

Droughts are, and will continue to be, a fact of life in Texas. A drought occurs when there is a lack of adequate precipitation over an extended period of time. Some part of the state is likely to be in a year-long drought once every three years.

Get Involved

Learn how you can help at home, in your community and at the state level to improve the way Texas responds to drought.

Learning from the Current Drought

For many municipalities and water suppliers, the severe drought conditions encountered in 2011 highlighted the inadequacy of existing drought management policies and the need to significantly improve response strategies before the next inevitable drought.

Protecting Rivers During Drought

Water supply projects such as dams, pipelines and pumps that are over-sized to meet peak demand, which could be significantly reduced during drought, negatively impact the health of our rivers, bays, fish and wildlife.

State Water Planning and Drought

With the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 1997 and Senate Bill 2 in 2001, the Texas Legislature called for drought response to be an essential part of water planning in Texas.

Useful Links and Resources

Useful links to additional information on drought and drought response planning.

Water Conservation or Drought Response?

The difference between water conservation and drought response is that water conservation is an on-going effort, whereas drought response is a short-term response to a water supply shortage.