Lee Leffingwell Makes a Splash

Council member named Conservationist of the Year

Talk toilets at work much anywhere, and you'll likely be rewarded with a blank stare. If you're Lee Leffingwell, waxing crapper will get you the Texas chapter of the American Water Works Association's Conservationist of the Year title. Granted, retrofitting water-gulping commodes is only one part of Leffingwell's comprehensive system of recommendations, designed to cut Austin's water usage by 10% in 10 years; other proposals include "irrigation system design standards, required soil depth, mandatory submetering, and a comprehensive public education program," according to a press release.

The dude is scheduled to be honored by the AWWA in Fort Worth this Thursday – no council meeting for Double-L? Press release from Leffingwell in full below.



Austin, Texas - Austin City Council Member Lee Leffingwell has been chosen to receive the 2006 "Conservationist of the Year" award by the Texas section of the American Water Works Association (AWAA), the nation's largest trade association of water professionals. Leffingwell will be honored at a ceremony at the group's annual meeting in Fort Worth on Thursday, April 12th.

Texas AWAA said Leffingwell earned the recognition for his role as the "driving force" behind the City of Austin's Water Conservation Task Force. First proposed by Leffingwell and formed by the Austin City Council in the summer of 2006, the Water Conservation Task Force was charged with delivering cost-effective recommendations for reducing peak water demand in Austin by a total of 10% over 10 years.

As Chair of the Task Force, Leffingwell helped lead the group through more than four months of work, including public hearings that engaged both environmental advocates and industry groups. The Task Force's final recommendations include, among other things, mandatory toilet refits, irrigation system design standards, required soil depth, mandatory submetering, and a comprehensive public education program.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to consider the recommendations on May 3rd.

Chris Brown, Chair of Texas AWAA's Conservation and Reuse Division, said that as a result of Leffingwell's Task Force work, Austin "has been catapulted to national prominence for its innovation" in water conservation. "These measures will not only help Austin reduce its peak water demand," said Brown, "but will be used by cities around the country as templates for water conservation ordinances in the future."

Brown said that that the Task Force recommendations could also ultimately save the City, and Austin taxpayers, millions of dollars. "Altogether the recommendations amount to peak reductions of nearly 33 million gallons per day, at an average cost of roughly $1.13 per gallon," said Brown. "Compare that to the cost of new water treatment plant construction, at more than $3.40 per gallon, and you get significant cost savings."

Leffingwell, a native Austinite and retired Naval and commercial airline pilot, is serving his first term on the Austin City Council. He previously served for five years as Chair of the city's Environmental Board. "It's great to be chosen to receive this award," said Leffingwell, "but the truly meaningful moment for me, and for the rest of the Task Force members, will be when we finally put these measures in place and begin to see the real difference they will make in helping us conserve our precious water resources."

The other members of the Water Conservation Task Force were Mayor Will Wynn, Council Member Sheryl Cole, Dave Anderson, Chris Riley, Christine Herbert, and Michael Warner, with administrative and technical support from City staff members including Tony Gregg, Dan Strub and Amanda Dewees of the City of Austin Water Conservation Program.

Texas Water 2007 Award Information


The Honorable Lee Leffingwell, Austin City Council
Lee Leffingwell is a native of Austin and a retired Naval and commercial airline pilot. He served for more than five years on the City of Austin’s Environmental Board before taking his current seat on Austin’s City Council in June of 2005. Lee is an active community volunteer and environmentalist, serving on TCEQ’s Municipal Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Advisory Council and the Regional Planning Committee for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer.

He recently was the driving force behind the creation of the Council’s Water Conservation Task Force. As chair, he led the Task Force through a tight 120-day schedule to identify steps the City could take to meet its goal of reducing peak-day water use by 1% annually for 10 years. These recommendations include, amongst others, mandatory toilet retrofits, irrigation system design standards, required soil depth, and mandatory submetering.

City Of Austin Water Conservation Task Force
In June 2006, the Austin City Council directed the City Manager to pursue aggressive conservation measures to meet a goal of reducing peak water day water consumption by 1% annually over 10 years. The initiative, proposed by Council Member Lee Leffingwell, resulted in the formation of the Water Conservation Task Force in September of 2006. The Task Force was given only 120 days to examine and recommend cost-effective measures to meet the 10% reduction goal and develop a policy document to present to council. Austin’s current water supply is projected to meet the population needs until 2040 but conservation delays the need to expand water and wastewater treatment plants. Conservation is the most cost-effective way to keep these costs down and keep water rates low.

The Water Conservation Task Force included Chairman Leffingwell, Mayor Will Wynn, Council Member Sheryl Cole, Environmental Board Chari Dave Anderson, Planning Commission Member Chris Riley, Resource Management Commission Member Christine Herbert, and Water And Wastewater Chair Michael Warner. The task force meetings were scheduled two weeks apart to explore each conservation topic. All task force meetings were open to the public and had time reserved for citizen communication.

The meetings were well represented with many different stakeholders with radically different interests. The Task Force solved the extraordinary problem of bridging the City’s environmental goals and industry interests. In a press release marking the start of the Task Force, Council Member Leffingwell remarked: “This initiative is about changing behavior and making conservation a priority. We are fortunate to live in a City that prioritizes water quality programs, many of which are already making a positive impact in our quality of life.”

The Austin City Council is expected to vote on the recommendations later this spring, but the Task Force has already created a package of improvements that will further Task Force’s aim to change behavior and emphasize conservation. Together, the recommendations amount to peak-day water savings of nearly 33 MGD at an average cost of roughly $1.13 per gallon. Compared to the cost of a new water treatment plant construction at more the $3.40 per gallon, the Task Force recommendations represent a significant cost savings for the City of Austin.

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Environment, City Council, Lee Leffingwell, Water Conservation, Task Force

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