By Ruthie Redmond and Jennifer Walker
The Texas Water Conservation Scorecard, released in 2016, was a first-of-its-kind, big-picture look at water utilities across Texas, evaluating them on their water conservation practices. The Texas Living Waters Project team continues to update the Scorecard when new annual data is available to show how Texas water utilities have improved their water conservation practices – and what progress still needs to be made.
Want to improve your utility’s score? Here’s how!
(Don’t work at a water utility? Let your water provider know that water conservation is important for your water future and share these helpful tips with them.)
Grading scale: Water utilities serving populations of 25,000 or more were evaluated on a 100-point scale. Utilities serving less than 25,000 customers were evaluated on a 55-point scale.
1. Turn in those reports.
This is easy! Don’t lose points for not submitting your reports. Submit your five-year Water Conservation Plan and yearly Water Loss Audit and Annual Report.
Available points: Submitting each of these reports will get your utility 15 points total.
- Solution: Utilize resources provided by the conservation staff at the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). It can get daunting trying to figure which of the various reporting requirements goes where. Fortunately, the Board is not only the receiving agency for these reports, but they have staff willing and able to assist your utility when filling them out.
- Take note: Five-year water conservation plans are due May 2019. These are important and take time to prepare. Start now.
2. Invest in reducing water loss in your water system.
Despite advances in water metering technology, water loss – typically caused by water leaks from aging or failing infrastructure – has not significantly changed since 2016.
Available points: This important strategy is worth up to 15 points.
- Solutions: Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and water loss control programs are both are eligible for SWIFT conservation funding so your utility can save water and
- TWDB offers free training on how to perform water loss audits so that your utility has the most accurate data about your system on hand and can target leaks, big and small.
3. Increase transparency.
Ensure that the public has easy access to your city’s Water Conservation Plan and conservation information. This means that your customers and stakeholders can be well informed of your efforts to conserve and protect their water.
Available points: Make it easy to find and get five points!
- Solution: Post five-year Water Conservation Plans and other water conservation info multiple places on your website.
4. Set strong water conservation goals and meet those goals.
Utilities set five- and ten-year water conservation goals (based on benchmarked water use) in their five-year Water Conservation Plans.
Available points: Setting strong goals will get your utility 15 points in the scorecard. Meeting those goals will get your utility another 10 points.
- Solution: For full points, water conservation goals should be set to reduce water use by 1.25 percent per year until you have met 125 total gallons per capita per day. Some utilities have already beat this goal.
- Step one is to set the goals, step two is meeting those goals. Without strong goals, it’s much more difficult for our communities to save the water we need to extend and protect our water supplies.
5. Implement Best Management Practices (BMPs).
TWDB currently has 23 BMPs to choose from, and more are on the way. Each BMP fully explains how to plan and implement the selected water conservation program.
Available points: Adopt 15 or more BMPs and get 10 points.
- Solutions: Use Water Conservation Advisory Council and TWDB guides to find out which water conservation practices are included as BMPs. Designate the BMPs you are implementing or plan to implement and get points on the scorecard.
- Contact similar cities that are successfully implementing BMPs to learn from their challenges and successes.
6. Implement a defined outdoor watering schedule.
Implementing an outdoor watering schedule is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce overall water use and summer peaks. Most Texas landscapes can survive on 1-2 days per week watering (or less!).
Available points: 15 points
- Solutions: Review the estimated water savings and implementation guide in Water Conservation by the Yard (2018), a recent Texas Living Waters Project report.
- TWDB is in the final stages of approving a Municipal BMP for this strategy. Look for it on the BMP section of their website.
- Several cities across the state have implemented this program. Use them as a resource!
7. Set a strong pricing signal.
Let your customers know the value of your community’s water through a conservation-oriented rate structure. This means that high water users pay more per unit of water. The higher cost is a compelling signal to customers to reduce water use.
Available points: Setting rates that encourage conservation is important, and that is why this strategy is worth 15 points.
- Solution: There are several resources on how to design effective rate structures. Check these out for guidance in designing and implementing your own:
- Designing Water Rate Structure for Conservation and Revenue Stability, Texas Living Water Project
- Financing Sustainable Water, Alliance for Water Efficiency
- Environmental Finance Center, University of North Carolina
- Key Solutions to Texas’ Water Woes Are Simpler Than We Think - August 24, 2022
- Austin is forging a path to a reliable water future - October 18, 2021
- One Water in Action: Travis County Courthouse - September 20, 2019