Water Conservation Implementation Task Force: Report to legislature, BMP Guide

In Texas, the Water Conservation Implementation Task Force unanimously approved final drafts of: 1) a report to the Texas Legislature, and 2) a Best Management Practices Guide. The task force was charged by a senate bill to complete and submit these two documents to the legislature by Nov. 1, 2004...

By Ruben Ochoa

AUSTIN, TX, Nov. 3, 2004 -- On Sept. 27, the Water Conservation Implementation Task Force (WCITF) unanimously approved final drafts of: 1) a report to the Texas Legislature, and 2) a Best Management Practices (BMP) Guide. The task force was charged by a senate bill (SB) to complete and submit these two documents to the legislature by Nov. 1, 2004.

The task force was directed in SB 1094 (of the 78th Legislature) to concentrate on issues related to: 1) best management practices, 2) implementation of conservation strategies contained in regional water plans, 3) a statewide public awareness program, 4) state funding of incentive programs, 5) goals and targets for per capita water use considering climatic and demographic differences, and 6) evaluation of state oversight and support of conservation. It successfully addressed all six issues.

The report represents the culmination of numerous WCITF meetings and many hours of vigorous debate and discussion by its 32 members. It presents background information and recommendations regarding each of the six issues enumerated in SB 1094.

Issue One -- Best management practices -- The report addresses concerns that BMPs would be viewed as mandatory measures by strongly emphasizing the voluntary nature of the BMPs included in the BMP Guide. The BMP Guide contains 55 BMPs: 21 municipal, 14 industrial, and 20 agricultural. The BMPs are voluntary efficiency measures designed to fit into the state's water resource planning process as an alternative to meet future water supply needs.

Issue Two -- Implementation of conservation strategies contained in the regional water plans -- The task force found that water management strategies contained in the 2002 State Water Plan that account for approximately 98% of the total volume of water to be saved by 2010 through conservation are being implemented to some degree. For water reuse projects, the task force found some level of implementation is present for projects that would account for approximately 97% of the total volume of water scheduled to be reused by 2010.

Issue Three -- A statewide public awareness program -- The task force expressed unanimous support for the Statewide Public Awareness Program concept and recommends that the state create and fund a Statewide Public Awareness Program for water conservation. The proposed program, consisting of a design, scope, and budget comparable to those of the highly successful "Don't Mess with Texas" highway anti-litter campaign, will greatly complement and reinforce other local and regional programs and activities.

Issue Four -- State funding of incentive programs -- The task force recommends authorizing Regional Conservation Coordinators to work with Regional Water Planning Groups and creation of regional and statewide conservation awards programs.

Issue Five -- Goals and targets for per capita water use considering climatic and demographic differences -- The task force adopted a standard methodology for determining gallons per capita per day (gpcd). The report recognizes that a simple comparison of per capita water use among Texas municipal water providers that may have significant differences in climate, geography and source water characteristics, as well as in their service and population profiles may, without additional data and analysis, lead to inaccurate conclusions about comparative water use efficiencies among those municipal water providers.

In addition, the task force recommends that all retail public water suppliers that are required to prepare and submit water conservation plans should consider: (a) a minimum annual reduction of 1% in total gpcd, based upon a five-year rolling average, until such time as the entity achieves a total gpcd of 140 or less; (b) a statewide goal to reduce total statewide water demand to an average of 140 gpcd ; and (c) any guidelines that may be adopted by the SB1 Regional Water Planning Group in which the entity developing the Municipal Water Conservation Plan is located.

Issue Six -- Evaluation of state oversight and support of conservation -- The task force included a recommendation to create a standing Water Conservation Advisory Council on matters regarding water conservation.

The task force also developed twelve additional recommendations that are not explicitly related to its duties as stated in SB 1094 but which it deemed relevant to the overall issue of water conservation implementation in Texas.

For links to the Report and BMP Guide, visit TWDB's website: www.twdb.state.tx.us/assistance/conservation/taskforce.asp

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