Deep Conservation Needed

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 2, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Lizzie Jespersen's article "Becoming Drought Tolerant" [News, Aug. 29] well reviewed how this region may respond to and/or learn to live in a drier climate, but it failed to note a very fundamental fact. Indeed, as has often been asserted, conservation is a critical factor, but we need to transcend our business-as-usual water infrastructure model. We need to go further than conserving by just tinkering around the margins of it, rather we need to engage in a fundamental transformation of the form and function of our water resources infrastructure, moving us to deep conservation, designing water utilization efficiency into development as if that were a central function, not just appending conservation onto it as if an afterthought. A key to this will be decentralization of the infrastructure, shortening water loops, rather than extending and perpetuating what is essentially a 19th century infrastructure model that pipes water in and wastes away, creating long loops that inherently limit water utilization efficiency. Indeed, a key recommendation of the Water Resource Planning Task Force was to pursue "Decentralization: The decentralized concept is the idea that storm water and wastewater are most effectively and efficiently managed by treating it – and reusing it – as close to where it is generated as practical." This is exactly the language I used to encapsulate the "decentralized concept of wastewater management" in 1986, a strategy which I've pressed Austin Water to consider all throughout the intervening three decades, to a very unreceptive audience. It remains to be seen how it will respond to the Task Force. Regarding the storm water part of it, I branded LID/green infrastructure strategies a "decentralized concept of stormwater management" about the turn of the century and have pressed the city to adopt it. Watershed Protection has recently been quite a bit more receptive to this concept, but still largely hangs on to the conventional end-of-pipe strategy, and it needs to move further and faster to maximize the benefits of the decentralized approach. Please consider a more incisive exploration of how we can move local society toward sustainable water, rather than ever further away as the extension and perpetuation of the prevailing 19th century infrastructure model surely will move us.
David Venhuizen
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