SAN FRANCISCO, AUGUST 15, 2016 -- Though Texas has had its share of natural droughts, the Lone Star State is wasting billions of gallons of water away every year. According to a review of the state's data by FluksAqua, the State of Texas loses a stunning 156,000+ Olympic-sized swimming pools of drinkable water every year at a cost of nearly $400 million.
Compared to the State of Georgia who also tracks water leakage, Texans pay more for their lost water. On average, a Texan water customer will pay an extra $38 per year to cover the water leaking from the existing infrastructure. Georgians pay $25.36 per customer connection.
However, Texas is one of six States that recognizes the issue and actually requires reporting of water loss. Water leakage is impossible to escape entirely but an inefficient water supply means water is drained from the environment prematurely.
The problem affects all communities large and small, with costs adding up quickly. The three biggest water losers are big cities:
- Houston - 17.2 billion gallons at a cost of $80 million
- San Antonio - 10.5 billion gallons costing more than $35 million
- Dallas - 10.2 billion gallons at a cost of $38 million
Houston annual water loss. Source: FluksAqua.
Urban centers experiencing major losses is not surprising but smaller towns and villages are hit by bigger costs and ultimately bigger water bills. According to the data, some of the highest costs of water losses per customer are in small towns such as the City of Silsbee ($322), the City of Groveton ($242) and the City of Moulton ($233).
Created by FluksAqua based on data collected by the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Municipal League and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the interactive infographic can show water leakage information based on geographical location.
"Texans can take some comfort in knowing that their water system is not unique - water leakage is a problem across the country," says Hubert Colas, president, FluksAqua Americas. "Having a system to properly track water losses is the first step in helping to contain and prevent leakage, but more resources are needed to maintain the water in the system."
Based on reported numbers, most states are likely experiencing the same or larger losses but there is no unified system for collecting the information. It is the problem that everyone knows is happening but there is little action to correct it. Texas may be wasting billions of gallons of water but they do require reporting from all their water utilities.
"Every State should be required to track their water losses and plan to improve their infrastructure before there is a significant break in the system," explains Colas. "Water is not an unlimited resource and the issue of water leakage can no longer be ignored."
Water losses may actually make up a large amount of water production costs. Water is taken from the environment, treated and pumped before being delivered which burns energy, uses chemicals and requires the building of facilities with extra capacity. In addition, there is the indirect cost of carbon emissions. For example, the energy to supply water to California corresponds to 19 per cent of all electricity consumed in the state. Overall, producing usable water consumes about three percent of all electricity in the U.S.
"The geographical size and multiple climate zones means Texas weather can vary greatly from one county to another," explains Colas. "This means precipitation patterns are such that little rain falls in areas like El Paso while Dallas enjoys a more moderate amount. Water supplies can be stressed when precipitation does not fall equally across the state."
Taking steps to conserve now means the state can help manage droughts in the future.
There is still work to be done as the infrastructure ages, energy costs increase and more regulations change the requirements for safe drinking water, while water revenues do not keep up with all issues to resolve. Texas can deliver improvements but there needs to be a change in attitudes towards water. Conservation means using this precious resource as efficiently as possible.
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