Texas has received high marks for our state’s laws and policies on water conservation. That positive recognition is deserved even though there is more the Lone Star State could do to advance conservation. But the real question is what’s happening “on the ground?” Are water utilities meeting the State’s legal requirements on conservation? Are these “municipal” water suppliers making their best efforts to reduce per capita water use, and thus save water and money for Texans?
Those are the questions we at the Texas Living Waters Project – a partnership of the Sierra Club-Lone Star Chapter, National Wildlife Federation, and Galveston Bay Foundation – have attempted to answer with this Texas Water Conservation Scorecard. We have reviewed over 300 water utilities in Texas to assess how much they are doing to save our most precious resource – water.
In compiling this Scorecard, we have relied on publicly accessible information from water conservation plans and reports, water loss audits, utility websites, and other such sources. A significant portion of a utility’s rating in the Scorecard depended upon information provided by that utility. If a utility failed to submit data to State water officials or if the information was incomplete, a utility may not have received points on one or more of our evaluation measures.
Our Scorecard is primarily an evaluation of utilities on their level of effort to advance conservation, not necessarily their performance in achieving conservation (with the exception of two scoring criteria). Each utility’s special circumstances may affect its rating. We have tried to provide additional context for the state’s 35 largest water utilities (serving 100,000 people or more) with “Snapshots” (narratives) that give more information. No evaluation system is perfect, but this Scorecard should at least highlight to Texans where their water utilities are doing well and where more conservation effort is needed.
One important point: Our Scorecard is an evaluation of what utilities are doing to save water through ongoing conservation measures, not temporary responses to drought. During drought we are asked or mandated to “conserve” water – reduce temporarily non-essential uses of water. Once the drought is over, those limitations are usually removed. What we are evaluating here is what utilities are doing to conserve water even when there is no drought.
What have we learned from our Scorecard? Here are some of the key findings:
Given these findings, we make several recommendations for advancing water conservation in Texas. Among our recommendations:
Successive State Water Plans over the past two decades have increasingly emphasized the importance of conservation in meeting the water demands of a growing population. Many experts believe that Texas has the potential to achieve even greater levels of conservation than recommended in the most recent State Plan. No matter what the ultimate potential may be, our Texas Water Conservation Scorecard shows that all water utilities in Texas can and should do more to achieve greater water efficiency – and save us water and money at the same time.
Use this Water Conservation Scorecard website to explore your water utility's efforts to conserve water. Click on the region of the state where you live on the map above, find your water utility, and see how they rate on water conservation. Compare your utility to other utilities around the state and within your region. Talk to the people in charge of your utility. Let them know that you save water, and you expect them to save water too. Take action - sign up to send a message to your utility. Water is a precious resource, and we need to use it efficiently. If we do, then we will have sufficient water to meet our needs and preserve the environment in which we live.