For many in Texas, this ongoing drought has been a wake-up call that access to an ample water supply is not a sure thing. With a growing population expected to stress the state’s already limited stores of water, using what we have efficiently is vital.

There are many ways that each of us can do our part to conserve water, from fixing a leaking faucet to planting drought tolerant landscapes. You may not be aware but several city governments and other organizations are busy spreading the word about water conservation, and offering tools or guidance to make it happen.

Water-wise development

The officials with the city of Georgetown in the central Brazos basin aim to reduce the amount or water used per person each day from 218 gallons to 160. With the number of residents expected to grow to 200,000 in the coming years, officials found conserving water is more important than ever.

The city recently enhanced its water conservation efforts by passing an ordinance to reduce water usage at new residential developments. They plan to do this by, among other things, limiting the amount of irrigated turf grass around new homes to the lesser of 10,000 square feet or 2.5 times the size of the structure’s foundation.

Also, those turf areas will have to have at least 6 inches of soil. This would lead to less frequent watering and reduced runoff. Other changes include requiring rain and moisture indicators on lawn sprinkler systems and the use of more drought resistant varieties of landscape plants and turf grasses.

Award-winning conservation

Another fast-growing city and Brazos River Authority customer, Round Rock was recently lauded for its efforts to conserve water by promoting rainwater harvesting and other initiatives.

The American Waterworks Association awarded the city program which sells barrels to the public to store collected rainwater. The city also offers rebates of up to $400 based on the number of gallons of rainwater collected per household. The AWWA also honored the city for its wastewater reuse program and its online video series on conservation techniques.

Rainwater harvesting is a great way to collect and save water for personal use, while reducing the strain on our water supply system.

The simplest harvesting systems involve little more than a barrel to hold water that drains from your roof into your rain gutters. More elaborate systems can include large capture areas, networks of pipes and storage tanks.

According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, in many communities, 30 to 50 percent of water people use is for landscape irrigation. Imagine the savings if instead of taking that water from the tap, you could collect it from the source, as it falls from the sky. Captured rainwater is ideal for landscaping and gardening, because it is typically free of salts, disinfectant by-products, harmful minerals and other contaminants. It needs no treatment before use.

Efficiency in action

Yet another Brazos basin city is doing its part to help stretch the state’s water supply by paying money to water customers who are cutting back on the amount of water they use when they flush.

The city of College Station offers a program to both residential and commercial water customers who replace or upgrade their current toilets with high efficiency models. These newer models use only about 1.28 gallons of water per flush compared to the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. Even older toilets use up to 6 gallons.

By switching to high efficiency models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That adds up to nearly 13,000 gallons of water saved per home each year. If every old toilet in the United States was replaced, the nation would save about 520 billion gallons of water annually, the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls every 12 days.

College Station’s program offers up to $100 in rebates to those who replace old toilets with the high efficiency models for residential customers. A similar program is available for commercial interests that upgrade their toilets.

These are just a few examples of the water conservation initiatives going on around the Brazos basin and the rest of the state. If you are interested in doing your part, check with your local water provider to see what programs they might offer. Even if no such program is available in your area, there are still many ways you can reduce your water footprint. You can find several suggestions on the BRA’s conservation pages, here.