Texas cities could save millions of gallons of water with more conservation, study says

Large Texas cities, including Fort Worth and Arlington, could combine to save almost 150 million gallons of water every day during the hot summer months through greater conservation, according to a study released this week.

Water use soars an average of 58 percent from July through September when compared with winter months in 18 Texas cities included in the study, reported the National Wildlife Federation and Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Reducing outdoor water usage by 25 percent would not only save 146.7 million gallons a day but also save cities millions of dollars in water treatment costs, the study said.

The authors estimated that Fort Worth could conserve 27.6 million gallons a day and Arlington 8.6 million gallons.

"The potential for easy savings during the summertime is simply staggering," Lacey McCormick, spokeswoman for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. "There's a big opportunity here to save money while protecting our supplies of drinking water."

Fort Worth and Arlington officials say they have water conservation plans that include many of the initiatives suggested in the study. Arlington updated its plan in 2009 with a goal of decreasing water consumption each year over the next 10 years, said Dustan Compton, the city's conservation program coordinator.

Fort Worth adopted rules last year to make new automatic irrigation systems more efficient and requires customers who use more water to pay more per unit, said Mary Gugliuzza, public education coordinator for Fort Worth's water department.

"Our water conservation program is ongoing; it's not stagnant," she said. "We think we have made real headway and will continue to do so. You can't do it all overnight."

Summer water usage can spike 83 percent in Fort Worth and 81 percent in Arlington, the report found. Dallas has seen 58 percent increases, though the study noted that Dallas reported water use differently than Fort Worth and Arlington.

The increase among all 18 cities constituted an additional 13.5 billion gallons of water that must be supplied, treated and pumped each day.

Statistics used in the report were taken from water conservation plans that cities filed with the state in 2009. That information included each utility's total monthly industrial, residential and wholesale water use over five-year periods.

Landscape watering accounts for much of the summer increase, the report said. It is estimated that half the water used on landscapes is wasted through overwatering or runoff.

"It makes little sense to procure, treat and deliver high-quality drinking water to customers only to have it evaporate immediately or disappear down a storm drain," the report said.

Among the recommendations were improved irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting, rebates for water-efficient landscaping and tiered rate structures where the heaviest users pay more per unit of water.

ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689