Houston City Council approves water conservation plan

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- In a city where flooding is always a worry, water conservation is often more of a concept than everyday reality.

"I definitely think about it daily, and try to conserve what we can, like try to use rain water and not the sprinkler when we can," said Bailey Haidamous, who chatted with us as she played with her son on a perfectly green lawn in Houston's west side. Her experience may be pretty typical, and that's what worries some longtime water planners.

"The cheapest water we're getting right now, is the cheapest it's going to be," says Michael Turco, man who runs Harris-Galveston Subsidence District.

The entity was created by the state legislature decades ago to manage ground water supplies and keep subsidence under control.

"Water rates are continuing to go up in the future, just because of the demand on the resource," he said.

Turco says everyone in the greater Houston area should focus more on conservation. For homeowners, it could mean simple things like using a rain sensor with your sprinkler system and installing low flow toilets.

Water use is more complicated for larger entities. Irrigation for commercial properties that plant non-native vegetation requiring lots of water is one issue. The Subsidence District is working with cities to lower their reliance on ground water, and move toward more surface water use.

"Unfortunately, Houstonians have become used to having ample supplies of water," said Mayor Annise Parker, who has tried to work on a long term plan for conservation.

A few years ago, she formed a Water Conservation Taskforce. The group issued a number of recommendations, though actual implementation has stalled.

Just Wednesday, Houston City Council passed an updated conservation plan as required by state law. It asks for Houstonians to try and conserve by using a gallon of water less per day within five years. The bigger problem for the city is an aging infrastructure that leaks lots of water through water main breaks and other problems.

A longterm water plan would require a comprehensive approach. This would require possibly a public awareness campaign, better infrastructure, and more hunger for the public to be proactive.

As Turco puts it, "Drought is still impacting this area, it may not be impacting enough where everyone sees it happening, but it is still happening."
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