Water experts meet to discuss ways to conserve water in Central Texas

Attendees at 2015 Central Texas Water Efficiency Network Symposium

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Water experts gathered in Austin on Wednesday for the 5th annual Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium. This year’s panel focused on successful water conservation program “case studies” from around the country.

“They’re here to find out what they’re doing in California and in other states,” said Jennifer Walker, Water Resources Coordinator with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “What they’ve learned — their lessons learned — the good and the bad, so we don’t make the same mistakes.”

Panelists Hank Smith, Matt Hollon and Chris Berry discussed the benefits of implementing drought-tolerant landscapes, especially as part of new home construction. Drought-tolerant landscapes include the use of native grasses, rain gardens and standardized soil placement (6″ in Austin) for each new home’s yard, using as little turf as possible. Panelists also debated the benefits of raising water bills and how charging fees through two different water meters at each residence– one for domestic use, one for outside irrigation — might lead to people to use their outside water less.

Panelist Matt Hollon, Environmental and Conservation Program Manager with the Watershed Protection Department in Austin, talked about using new home construction to create water conservation. Construction crews can mulch extra lumber to fertilize grass and new homeowners can use the natural shaping of their own yards to place rain gardens. Hollon said there are seven million square feet of roofs in Austin and that capturing run-off from these roofs could potentially supply the city with an adequate amount of water.

Smith, Hollon and Berry agreed on the necessity for people to be aware of their water usage, arguing that demand for efficient homes will force home builders to supply it. “Home builders don’t go and create demand,” said Hank Smith, principal and owner of Texas Engineering Solutions, LLC.

The symposium also looked at ways to connect customers through social media and the link between water consumption and energy, which can help promote conservation. To see the rest of the symposium’s agenda, click here.

If you’re wondering about water conservation and drought in our area, check out the KXAN Weather Blog to see the effects of January’s above-average rainfall on area lake levels, and look to see when rain will fall next on the KXAN Weather Forecast page.

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