Be Water Wise

You can play a role in holding off the need for a new water treatement plant

Be Water Wise

Chronicle readers are presumably savvy enough to get ahead of the water-conservation curve – no need to wait for new, improved city rules. For starters, make sure you're taking advantage of the existing city of Austin rebates, programs, and guidelines listed here. To learn more, visit the city's Water Conservation Web site at, or call 974-2199.

If you're a renter, lobby your landlord to participate in water-conservation programs for apartment buildings. On the job, encourage your employer to promote water conservation in the workplace. Call 974-2199 to learn about city-commercial and industrial-water-saving programs and incentives.

Conserving water also conserves energy and thus helps reduce our "carbon footprint"; more than half of the city of Austin's internal energy consumption goes to water and wastewater pumps and systems. Reduce water use, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and help achieve the Austin Climate Protection Plan!


Conserve water through minimal yard watering; landscape with drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs, and trees; and minimize use of water for cleaning. Sweep, don't spray or power-wash, those sidewalks and decks. Call 974-2199 to report water waste you observe (such as water running down the street).

WaterWise Program: Landscaping rebates are available for replacing large areas of turfgrass with drought-tolerant native plants. Rebates are offered for soil, trees, and shrubs. (Must be approved prior to purchases.) Online resources include a sample landscape plan, a plant list, and WaterWise application. Irrigation evaluations and rebates, too.

Be Water Wise

Lawn Wise: Observe the city's five-day watering schedule. Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest, to reduce evaporation and waste. Hand-water with a hose where possible; it saves a third of what automatic sprinkler systems use. Fix leaky sprinkler systems. Don't waste water; position sprinklers carefully to prevent runoff. Use a rain gauge to track how much rain or irrigation your yard receives; set an empty can on the lawn to measure the water output of a sprinkler. Use a timer on hose-end sprinklers to avoid overwatering; call 974-2199 to get your free hose timer.

Mow Wise: Adjust your lawn mower to cut grass to a height of 3 inches or more; taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil, reducing moisture loss.

Green Gardening: Follow the city's water-savvy and earth-friendly Green Garden principles, detailed at For example, place three inches of mulch or compost on all beds to retain moisture in the soil. On that Web site find links to: Grow Green (landscaping to protect water quality), Dillo Dirt, Composting, and Green Building.

Rainwater Harvesting: Buy a 75-gallon rain barrel at a discount, directly from Austin Water Conservation, for just $60. Or get a $30 rebate on another rain barrel. Learn how to use and install one – easy!

Pool Wise: Fill your pool a few inches lower than usual. Use a cover to reduce evaporation. Monitor levels to ensure it's losing no more than one-quarter inch per day. Better yet, fill it in with Dillo Dirt, and go to Barton Springs!

Car Wash Wise: If you wash your own car, park on the grass, and use a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle. Or select a commercial car wash that recycles water.


Conserve water by using late-model, water-efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures, fixing leaks, and never running water you don't need.

Flush Wise: Get cash to replace those old (pre-1996) water-greedy toilets with low-flow models, and cut water use up to 50%. Program includes vouchers for the city's free toilet program (with installation rebates), rebates on new toilets (flushing performance is king!), and tips on replacing your flapper to save up to 200 gallons a day. They'll give you everything but the TP!

Be Water Wise

Shower Wise: Pick up your free new showerheads at 625 E. 10th #615. Their water-efficient flow rate of 2 gallons per minute could save you 2 gallons a minute, over older models. (To test whether it's worth it, call 974-2199 to request a flow-rate bag for testing.) Limit family members to a five-minute shower or a 6-inch-deep bath. Turn the water off while you shampoo and condition your hair, and you can save more than 50 gallons a week.

Tap Wise: Free faucet aerators are also available at the office above. Aerators reduce consumption, not water pressure; you'll use less water without even noticing. To conserve more, fix leaky faucets (and toilets); plumbing leaks account for 14% of water consumed in the home, and one steady faucet drip can waste 20 gallons of water a day. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, to save 4 gallons a minute. For a family of four, that alone saves 200 gallons a week!

Wash Wise: Rebates are available on high-efficiency clothes washers. The $100 rebate is made up of two parts: a water rebate and an energy rebate.

Dishwasher Wise: A full, energy-efficient dishwasher cleans best and has the lowest environmental impact of any cleaning method. The newer, most energy-efficient new models have an energy factor of 0.61 or higher; those models use no more than 6.5 gallons per cycle.

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More by Katherine Gregor
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