Austin Needs a 'Conservation First' Policy With Water

RECEIVED Tue., June 10, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Last week's Chronicle featured an article on a possible new city of Austin landfill near Webberville [“The Webberville Conundrum,” News, June 6]. Newly elected Council Member Randi Shade is quoted as saying, "I'm more worried about the mixed message of creating a landfill at the same time that we're trying to reduce waste" [“The New Council Weighs In,” News, June 6].
    Shade's logic is perfectly applicable to the city's plans to spend almost half a billion dollars (of our money) on a new water treatment plant at the same time the city is implementing water conservation measures.
    If we are even moderately successful at conserving water, we don't need an additional water treatment plant for decades to come, according to the city's own data.
    Austin Energy, our rate-payer-owned electric utility, has a policy to invest in conservation before building new power plants. This policy saves us money while reducing pollution.
    Why can't we have a similar "conservation first" policy with water?
    Last summer, the Chronicle was a big promoter of Austin Energy's Kill-a-Watt contest that promoted increased energy conservation from all types of rate payers. To kick off summer water conservation efforts, how about a water conservation contest to see how much individuals, families, small and large businesses, and governments and institutions can reduce water use?
    Our neighbors in San Antonio use far less water per capita than we do in Austin. If we catch up to San Antonio on water conservation, there is absolutely no reason to build the boondoggle known as Water Treatment Plant No. 4. It's only if we continue our water-wasteful ways that we "need" a hugely expensive new water treatment plant.
    Let's stop the mixed messages and stick to "conservation first." We'll save water and save money.
Colin Clark
Save Our Springs Alliance
   [Editor's note: The Kill-a-Watt Challenge to which Clark refers was not actually an Austin Energy contest but rather a contest that The Austin Chronicle put together entirely through volunteer efforts, and with which Austin Energy generously assisted.]
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