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Saving Water, One House at a Time

Environmental Texas begins Prop. 6 education campaign

By Lizzie Jespersen, 9:00AM, Fri. Jun. 20

Saving Water, One House at a Time

Pesticide salesmen and shirt-and-tie teenagers clutching copies of the Book of Mormon won’t be the only solicitors knocking at your door this summer.

This week, nonprofit Environment Texas has launched its door-to-door campaign to build public support and increased involvement for water conservation. The campaign kick-off coincides with the opening of a formal public comment period on rules that govern the state’s new water infrastructure fund.

Those proposed rules, released June 17, are amendments to the $2 billion infrastructure fund created when Prop. 6 was passed in November. The fund, which consists of money transferred from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, will be dispersed to water-related projects throughout Texas in the form of loans. The new law requires that at least 20 percent of the funding must support water conservation projects, and at least another 10 percent is to be delegated to rural agricultural water conservation projects. The rules released Tuesday further define the qualifications of water conservation-based projects, as well as created a prioritization system to determine which projects receive funding (and how much of it).

Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger said while the draft rules are encouraging at first blush, the prioritization system could be better refined.

“We wanted them to include [in the prioritization system] the question, ‘What effect will this have to the environment?’” Metzger said. “There’s not an explicit consideration of that in the prioritization process. Our belief is that yes, we are going to need additional water – that could come from reducing demand – but there are some projects that are so bad for the environment that they shouldn’t be built, and that shouldn’t come from tax payer money.”

It will be concerns like this, as well as efforts to discourage funding for projects like the flooding of a high-priority conservation area to create Marvin Nichols Reservoir, that Environment Texas will be taking with them door-to-door this summer in hopes of getting the public involved, before the public comment period ends in November. In addition, these “solicitors” plan to educate the public on basic conservation literature and tips that they can implement into their daily lives.

This emphasis on the public’s responsibility to conserve water is one of the few bipartisan issues remaining in Texas politics. It was echoed by Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples, a steering committee member of Texas Water Smart, a public-private coalition created to encourage homeowners to conserve water. In a press conference Tuesday, Staples reminded the public that while it may be “easy for us to be mistaken that with recent rains we are out of the woods with drought,” 89 percent of Texas still remains in drought conditions.

“It’s more than an initiative. It’s an investment,” Staples said. “If we do not practice water conservation, then we’re going to have to suffer with mandated restrictions. And if we don’t practice voluntary water conservation, it’s going to cost us jobs, because companies recognize that they have to have available water in order to meet the needs of growing businesses.”

More on the Environment Texas campaign is available here.

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