Municipal/Agricultural Conservation Tools Applied in Central Texas, U.S.
River Systems Institute, Texas State University-San Marcos
The majority of water providers in the West and Southwest U.S., including Texas, have not achieved significant water conservation savings, nor have they optimized the efficiency of existing facilities and delivery systems despite reduced water supplies and persistent drought. Adopting cost-efficient conservation measures and best management practices, however, could reduce water supply stresses and alleviate future water deficits. Central Texas provides a unique setting of water sources for municipal and agricultural water providers, based on the mixing of surface and groundwater sources for either use category. Accordingly, this study discusses the development and application of municipal and agricultural water conservation tools, both with significant potential for water savings, based not only on water provider category, but also from optimizing surface and groundwater use. The Municipal Water Conservation Tool was developed to assist municipal water providers in estimating the current and potential future volumes of water saved by utilizing recommended conservation best management practices and determining the potential savings derived from such practices. Among the results from utilizing the Municipal Tool are that water providers characterized as predominantly rural, with some suburban coverage, exhibited the lowest average customer water consumption value (92 gallons per person per day) in Central Texas, while suburban, urban and strictly-rural water providers trended towards higher individual water consumption values. Further, urban and primarily urban water providers tend to have higher per capita use rates for several reasons (and often despite aggressive conservation programs), including a larger percentage of affluent, high water use customers, and higher water leakage rates because of larger water volumes and longer distances supplied. The Agricultural Conservation Tool was developed to assist agricultural producers and water planners in managing available water supplies and financial resources to achieve maximum irrigation results for the least cost suite of on-farm and irrigation best management practices. Groundwater is the predominant source for agricultural use in Central Texas, although not necessarily the only source. The Agricultural Tool first estimates, in situations of little or no meter data, the percentage of groundwater vs. surface water volumes for agricultural applications. Based on crop types, irrigation practices, and other data, the Tool estimates current water conservation savings, or water saved by employing water conservation practices. The conservation savings of incorporating additional best management practices or water saving measures, as well as the potential costs and monetary savings also are determined. Identifying measures for conserving agricultural water without significantly reducing crop yields, coupled with increasing municipal conservation savings, and being able to estimate the associated costs of each, will allow producers and water managers to effectively plan for future water needs in the face of impending water shortages from recurrent droughts, increased municipal demands and increasing water prices.