By Anna Huff and Nick Dornak, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University
The small Texas towns of Wimberley and Woodcreek are making big waves in the One Water world after the Wimberley Independent School District (WISD) announced their plans to build the first One Water school in Texas. When it opens in fall 2020, the primary school campus will utilize a variety of One Water strategies to reduce groundwater usage from the Trinity Aquifer by 90 percent when compared to traditional construction standards.
One Water is a water planning and management approach that rethinks how water moves through and is used in a community; it brings stakeholders like developers, community leaders, urban planners, water managers and engineers together with the goal of utilizing water as thoughtfully and efficiently as possible.
The new campus, located in the heart of the Wimberley Valley on Ranch Road 12 and Winters Mill Parkway, has been planned, conceptualized and architecturally designed over the past year. WISD worked with the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and other local entities for planning the project.
The school’s One Water design acknowledges the importance of protecting Wimberley’s sensitive water resources, such as Jacob’s Well, Blue Hole and the Trinity Aquifer, by promoting and managing all the water as a single resource that is sustainable and reusable.
Here are a few ways the 85,000 square-foot campus will incorporate One Water strategies to reduce its water footprint:
- Rainwater and AC condensate collection will be used to flush toilets and provide irrigation for landscape and school gardens.
- Water saving fixtures to reduce water usage.
- Green Stormwater Infrastructure to slow down runoff, recharge groundwater and reduce nonpoint source pollution.
- Onsite treatment and reuse system that will allow gray/black water produced by the school to be beneficially reused through a subsurface drip irrigation system.
- Educational features include clear pipes and signage installed into the architecture of the school to create an immersive, educational experience.
The new school will not only benefit the environment but will also save money for WISD in the long-term. The district projects that it will save around $800,000 over 30 years in utilities as less water is being used to operate the school. The money saved can help the district employ additional staff and teachers, while keeping the district less water and energy dependent from outside resources.
But most importantly, the water smart school will serve as a model for communities throughout the Texas Hill Country as well as a teaching tool to WISD students about the value of water conservation. The region will face enormous water challenges over the next 100 years and beyond, however the One Water school will provide an important reminder that it is possible to balance the challenges of growth with the continued stewardship of our precious water resources.
Anna Huff is the Communications Manager for The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. She is responsible for the implementation of strategies that broaden the impact and awareness of the center and its respective programs.
Nick Dornak is the Director of Watershed Services for The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Nick engages with key stakeholders at the nexus of science and policy to inform decisions and advance best practices for protecting water resources.