Thankfully, some Texas cities have already identified outdoor water use as a great place to lock in water savings. Dallas, Fort Worth and Frisco are just a few of the cities that have adopted year-round watering schedules to protect and extend their water supplies. These restrictions have already paid off: Since Dallas introduced its “no more than twice per week” watering regulations in 2012, the city’s water pumping has dropped 13 percent. These savings make a difference when it comes to combating water-supply stress caused by the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s explosive population growth.
Dallas has set an example with its outdoor watering ordinance. Now the rest of the region should do the same. In a recently released report, our team found that Region C, the water planning region that includes North Texas, uses far more water outdoors than any other region. In fact, Region C’s outdoor water use accounts for 35 percent of Texas’ total single-family outdoor water use.
High outdoor water consumption is not great, but it does mean that North Texas can save a lot of water by implementing sensible limits on outdoor irrigation. How much water? If cities across Region C implemented Dallas’ strategy, they would save between 103,000 and 163,000 acre-feet of water each year! This is almost enough water to meet Fort Worth’s projected 2020 water demand of 188,000 acre-feet.
Based on Texas’ 2017 State Water Plan, water savings from limiting outdoor watering to twice per week or less across Region C would meet:
- 97 percent to 100 percent of Region C’s municipal water needs in 2020.
- 25 percent to 39 percent of the region’s municipal water needs in 2040.
- 15 percent to 23 percent of its municipal water needs in 2070.
North Texas’ water supply challenges will continue to grow as the region grows. For example, Collin County’s water demand is expected to increase 84 percent in the next 50 years. If more communities in North Texas enact outdoor watering restrictions, more water can be saved for future growth. These water savings help alleviate the need for costly and land-intensive infrastructure projects like the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, which will be the first major reservoir constructed in Texas in more than 20 years. Water conservation strategies that include outdoor watering ordinances are a cost-effective and sustainable way forward for our future water supplies.
The ways in which cities use water directly affect the health of the lakes, rivers and bays that provide us with economic, social and environmental benefits. When cities implement ordinances that limit outdoor watering to no more than twice per week, they leave more fresh water to flow in our rivers and creeks and give life to Texas bays. All of this supplies Texas’ fish and wildlife with a place to call home.
Ruthie Redmond is the water resources program manager for the Sierra Club-Lone Star Chapter, and Jennifer Walker is the senior program manager for water programs at the National Wildlife Federation. They can be reached at email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.