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What’s in your water conservation scorecard?

Like most Texans, you likely depend on a water provider to deliver water to your home and business. You may not be aware of it, but water utilities also play a vital role in conserving the water supplies of the communities they serve. So how does your water provider compare to others across the state when it comes to making sure our most precious resource lasts well into the future?

You can find out your utility’s water conservation score and see whether they’ve made strides in recent years by checking out the Texas Water Conservation Scorecard. Originally released in 2016 and updated annually since, the Scorecard offers a snapshot of water conservation efforts in Texas and allows you to track yearly progress of your utility’s water conservation initiatives. Scores are available for 305 Texas utilities with over 3,300 connections and are based on data and information from water conservation plans, water loss audits, and utility websites.

Annual scorecard updates use four out of ten metrics based on answers to the following questions:

  1. Did the utility submit its required Annual Report, which gives updates on the utility’s progress toward water conservation goals?
  2. Did the utility submit its required Water Loss Report, which shows how much water was lost during the year?
  3. What was the reported Percent Water Loss, or what percent of all of the community’s water was lost during the past year through issues such as leaky pipes?
  4. How many recommended water conservation initiatives, referred to as Best Management Practices (BMPs), did the utility implement? The Texas Water Development Board provides a list of recommended BMPs and more are currently under development.

The Scorecard serves as a benchmark for utilities to improve performance and encourages a commitment to stronger water conservation goals. Texas is growing , and our water providers will play an important part in making sure we can continue to meet the needs of Texans while also leaving enough fresh water supplies for healthy fish and wildlife habitat. You can use the Scorecard as a resource to understand how your community’s water provider is dealing with this challenge, and to become more involved by encouraging them to set and achieve more ambitious water conservation goals.

To pave the way for a resilient Texas future with enough fresh water for every living thing, conservation is our lowest-hanging fruit. So, how did our Texas cities do in trying to pick that fruit? Analysis from the 2019 Scorecard (based on the four metrics mentioned previously) shows that:

1. There has been an overall decrease in utility scores, but that isn’t the story for every region. There’s been an increase in scores for utilities in water planning regions B, K, I , and O since 2015. At the same time, there has been an overall decrease in utility scores in regions A, C, D, and F.

2. Utilities are making strides in reporting important data, but training is needed. Since 2015, the number of utilities that have submitted their annual Water Loss Audits has increased – in fact, a record 65% of the utilities that we evaluated in 2018 submitted these reports. Unfortunately, 29% of these reports were rejected by the Texas Water Development Board because of data discrepancies. Thanks to new legislation that requires the Board to provide free training to individuals that are responsible for filling out these reports, we expect to see the number of rejected reports decrease in future years.

3. Addressing water loss needs to be a priority area for utilities. In 2018, there was an overall increase in percent water loss. While some of this reported increase can likely be attributed to more accurate data collection and reporting methods, which is a positive thing, it is also a result of deteriorating water infrastructure and unauthorized consumption.

4. Utilities are adding more conservation programs. Between 2015 and 2018, the total number of implemented BMPs increased by an impressive 24%.

Based on the results we’re definitely headed in the right direction, Texas! Imagine if we did even more to save that H2O? Go to the Texas Water Conservation Scorecard website to learn more about your utility’s score and how they can improve conservation practices for your community’s water supply.

Jennifer Walker

Senior Program Manager for Water Programs at National Wildlife Federation
Jennifer has 15 years experience focusing on water policy issues in Texas with an emphasis on water planning, water conservation and bay and estuary protection issues. She and her family like to camp near rivers where they can listen to the frogs sing at night.

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