Monthly Featured Story - October 2019 | Texas Water Development Board

Every Drop Adds Up October 2019

At the end of September, just a few weeks after Tropical Depression Imelda dropped more than 40 inches of rainfall in parts of southeast Texas, approximately 48 percent of the state was in drought. That's 10 percentage points more than in August. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor's October 1 map, approximately 46 percent of the state was in drought at the time this article was published.

How can that be, when so many Texans are hurting from yet another instance of too much water? How can we even think about having too little water after such an event? It's a pattern seen throughout history: Texas is a state of perpetual drought punctuated by times of flood. Because of the vast size of our state and the diversity of our climate, Texans are almost guaranteed the constant contradiction of simultaneous flood and drought. That is why the state must address them concurrently. We must continue to plan for the next drought and for our future water supply needs even when recovering from flood.

The 2017 State Water Plan tells us that Texas faces significant water shortages over the next 50 years if steps are not taken to conserve and develop additional water supplies. Rapid population growth is expected and along with it, water demands. Texas' existing water supplies—those that can already be relied on in the event of drought—are expected to decline.

As we've said before and we'll no doubt say again, there is no new water to be created on Earth. The water available to us now is the same water that was here thousands of years ago and the same water that will be used by generations to come.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to help ensure we have enough water for the future is to conserve the water we currently have. That's where everyone in Texas comes in.

Perhaps you're thinking, "Can I really make a difference as one person?" Yes, you can! Besides, if everyone does a little, it adds up to a BIG difference for our state! There are many ways to conserve water, several of which are small changes that we can all make in our daily routines.

One easy option is to shorten shower time. Did you know that reducing your shower from 10 to 5 minutes could save approximately 12.5 gallons per shower with an efficient showerhead? That's more than 4,500 gallons a year! Consider this:

If you and 24 family members, friends, or neighbors each made this change, it would add up to more than 100,000 gallons per year. That's well over a million 12-ounce cans of your favorite beverage.

Or, put another way, currently in Texas, the average annual per-person water use is approximately 59,495 gallons a year.1 That shorter shower by 25 people just created enough water for more than one person for an entire year. Imagine the difference it would make if our entire population of 28 million shortened their showers.

To put this into perspective, the state has estimated that by 2020 it will need to save 72,990,720,743 gallons through municipal conservation to meet the water needs of residents. That amount quadruples in 50 years. And everyone can help us meet those goals.

So, how else can you save water as you go about your daily activities? We're glad you asked. And no, you don't need to give up your morning coffee! Here are a few ideas, some of which you may already be doing:

  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.
  • Install water-efficient appliances.
  • Check your toilet and fixtures for leaks.
  • Water your yard in the morning or late evening.
  • Run the dishwasher, rather than washing dishes by hand.

Check out our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more tips to conserve water. We also offer several conservation-related brochures and materials online, many of which can be ordered in bulk. There's even a coloring book.

In addition to individual efforts, communities across Texas recognize the importance of conservation and efficiencies in their water operations. For example, some utilities have incorporated advanced metering infrastructure into their systems, offering the ability to monitor meters in real time to obtain more accurate data on water usage throughout the system. This means that leaks and water loss in the distribution network can be detected earlier, helping utilities conserve water and money.

Reuse is another way communities are making smart use of their water supply. Water reuse generally refers to the process of using treated wastewater (reclaimed water) for a beneficial purpose. The degree of treatment depends on the proposed use for the water. Examples of water reuse include irrigation, cooling, and augmenting water supplies.

The North Texas Municipal Water District's East Fork Water Reuse Project is an example of a non-traditional reuse solution to supplement a surface water supply source. Treated wastewater is diverted from the East Fork of the Trinity River and passed through one of the largest man-made wetlands in the country, where it is naturally filtered before being pumped 43 miles north to Lake Lavon for storage, blending, and water supply use. The system is designed to deliver up to 90 million gallons per day.

We can all play a part in reducing water use and making smart decisions to help ensure this critical resource will be available for generations to come and in times when Texas needs it most. A few drops from a leaky faucet or five minutes of shower time may seem insignificant, but every drop adds up.

1 According to data provided in the 2017 State Water Plan