AUSTIN Saturday, Gov. Perry signed a package of bills designed to help conserve water amid one of Texas’ worst droughts. Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger released the following statement:
“Texas is in a water crisis caused by drought and made worse by wasteful water use. During the summer of 2011, Texas was hit by the worst single-year drought in our history, and drought continues to plague the state. Low water levels in rivers and streams threaten wildlife and strain drinking water supplies—yet water waste is rampant across the state
We applaud Gov. Perry for signing this package of water conservation bills. They will help cut water waste and provide new tools for Texans to conserve water.
SB 198 (Watson/Dukes) prevents homeowners associations from blocking members who want to xeriscape – or put in native grasses and other drought-tolerant landscaping. Residential lawns planted with common lawn grasses like St. Augustine and Kentucky Bluegrass require copious amounts of water to grow in the arid regions of Texas— far in excess of what native plants would require. A recent Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report found that increasing the use of drought-tolerant plants in landscaping instead of traditional lawns could reduce withdrawals by 14 billion gallons by 2020, or as much as 240,000 Texans would use in a year.
HB 857 requires water utilities to conduct annual audits of water loss, HB 1461 requires utilities to notify customers of the results of the audit and HB 3505 requires utilities to use a portion of state assistance to repair leaks. Broken water mains leak more than 2 percent of the water provided in municipal systems. In the summer of 2011, the city of Houston lost as much as 25 percent of its water to leaks. Repairing leaking municipal water mains would end the waste of at least 20 billion gallons of water annually.
The Governor also signed HB 2615, HB 3604, HB 654, and SB 700 yesterday. He has previously signed HB 4 and SB 385.
Texans believe more needs to be done to cut water waste and protect water for environmental needs. A recent poll by Texas A&M found that “while most believe that short-term changes in annual rainfall are a major cause of water shortages, they also cited overuse and inadequate management of water resources, increased demand, and climate change as additional, important factors affecting drought.” Among various water strategies reviewed, the poll found that programs to encourage water conservation and protect water resources for environmental needs had the highest support