Q. Why are we still on water restrictions even though the drought is over?
The Defined Irrigation Schedule, which restricts in–ground irrigation to no more than two days a week, has nothing to do with drought. In fact, it was instituted in 2013, well after the drought was over.
Q. So if it is not about drought, what is it about?
Simply, it’s about being responsible stewards of a vital resource and trying to ensure there is enough water for future generations.
Q. We’ve got plenty of water. The lakes and bayous are full. It’s been raining all the time. Why are the MUDs and Woodlands Water concerned about water conservation?
We currently have approximately 500,000 people in Montgomery County. We have been permitted to pump water from the Jasper and Evangeline aquifers at a rate of about 84,000 acre feet a year. That’s about 30 billion gallons. The combined two aquifers recharge at 64,000 acre feet a year (about 21 billion gallons). That’s a current deficit of about 20,000 acre feet or around 9 billion gallons. And large water volume users in the county (any group using 10 million gallons or more) are under mandate to reduce their usage by 30%. While The Woodlands, the City of Conroe and Oak Ridge North are some of the largest users, there are many more large users within the county.
Q. But aren’t we now taking water from Lake Conroe? Shouldn’t that solve the problem?
Yes. It solves the current problem. But residents still need to look to the future. There are about 500,000 people in the county. By 2035, experts are saying that we will have close to a million here, and that population will continue to grow exponentially after that. Since public water providers are charged by the TCEQ to provide clean drinking water at just and reasonable prices for now and for the future, it’s important to find additional water. Experience from the rest of the country shows that by reducing water consumption by 30%, those billions of gallons can serve future generations. If regions burdened by drought now had the foresight to conserve water decades ago, they may not be having the problems they are having now.
Q. How will restricting lawn irrigation to no more than two days a week help?
Of all the potable water used in The Woodlands (and throughout most of Montgomery County), at least 50% is used to irrigate lawns. In the summer, that can rise to 80% on peak days. Additionally, of all the water used to irrigate lawns, 50% of that is wasted, running off into the street and into storm sewers and ultimately to the Gulf. Lawn irrigation, not toilets or showers, is the largest waster of water by far.
Q. Will this conservation program keep my water rates down?
Water prices will continue to rise across Texas, the nation and the world. We will never again see water prices as low as they are now. And we are still much lower than elsewhere. Cost for the equivalent of 10,000 gallons of water in Britain is about $96. In France, it is $120. Here the cost is approximately half that. Although conservation will help keep water prices from rising as rapidly as they might in other areas, the real value of conservation is to maintain an adequate supply of clean drinking water for our children and future generations.