2012 Blue Legacy Award ~ Municipal Winners

Travis County WCID No. 17

TravisCoWater District 17 is a retail non-profit public utility with over a 50 year history of providing quality water and wastewater service to customers in a section of the Lake Travis area. Water District 17’s reuse program is the largest in the Lake Travis area.  It encompasses reuse not only for recycled effluent permitted through the wastewater treatment plants and used to irrigate golf courses, but also extensive landscaping and tree irrigation on medians and rights-of-way as well as common areas for homeowners associations.  District 17 has obtained a Chapter 210 Reclaimed Water Authorization permit for the entire area of the District.  This permit allows for many opportunities to make use of recycled water wherever possible.  The District operates four wastewater treatment plants, and each one has an associated reuse system.

District 17 has additional reuse plans for projects under construction.  The largest of these will be the Lakeway Regional Medical Center parkland area estimated at twelve acres.  Effluent lines are currently being installed which will eventually irrigate this land with recycled effluent.District 17 has been recognized by TCEQ Irrigation Advisory Council as a leader in water conservation for its management of local water resources and commitment to conservation. The District is the only Water Control and Improvement District in the area to have an enforced irrigation ordinance and an irrigation plan review program with a licensed irrigation inspector on staff who reviews every irrigation plan for effective use of water.  The District works closely with all local entities to ensure that their water resources are protected and conserved. Some of those programs include:

  • Emergency Interconnect and Mutual Assistance Agreements with local utilities.
  • Reciprocal Effluent Irrigation Use Agreements with local utilities.
  • Collaborative Water Conservation efforts with the Lower Colorado River Authority.

City of McKinney - Office of Environmental Stewardship

The City of McKinney’s Office of Environmental Stewardship demonstrates a commitment to raising public awareness on the issues water conservation and energy conservation.  City of McKinney’s multi-media public awareness outreach program is a creative way to raise the complexities and vital importance of water conservation to local residents without overwhelming residents with complicated graphs and statistics that rarely translate to the individual. By providing residents with tools and information on how they can positively change daily water use behaviors, the program can successfully alter water use in the locality. Such a broad public outreach campaign, combined with a water use policy that requires some conservational behaviors, provides a creative and multi-faceted solution to the challenges of altering behavior related to water conservation. This effort includes electronic and social media, print advertising, handouts, and seminars for residents and businesses. The focus of the program is two-fold: water conservation for a drought-prone area and energy conservation for a non-attainment area for ozone under the Clean Air Act (as it relates to the energy-water nexus).COMcK

The City of McKinney adopted a forward-thinking ordinance in 2007 requiring year-round watering restrictions, ET (evapotranspiration) controllers for all new construction, and rebates for ET controller retrofits for existing irrigation systems. Beginning in 2009, the McKinney Office of Environmental Stewardship developed a public outreach program for residents that include an ongoing series of workshops and seminars targeting water conservation techniques (irrigation maintenance, rain barrels, composting, and Texas SmartScape) as well as community-wide events. In 2011, with the help of an ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act), which was funded by the Department of Energy grant, McKinney launched a web-based water conservation program called “To be really green, you have to walk the walk” - http://mckinneytexas.org/green/. In addition, McKinney utilizes Facebook, Twitter, and Constant Contact (with about 1,400 people/businesses registered) to reach out to the McKinney community. The message is simple – sustainable water conservation requires each and every one of us to do our part; every drop of water saved is important. Working in concert with the municipal irrigation policy, the outreach program demonstrates McKinney’s commitment to successful water conservation for a sustainable future.

New Braunfels Utilities

Numerous water utilities, of various sizes and ages, face the challenge of managing and reducing water loss from their systems. In 2009, New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) engaged in an aggressive, highly successful, and multistage leak detection and valve maintenance program that focuses on continual system maintenance through valve preventive maintenance (PM), leak detection, leak repair, equipment upgrades and specialized employee training. NBU took a unique approach and invested time and fiscal resources to purchase state of the art equipment; but perhaps more importantly focused on training a specialized leak detection team and developed internal policies to support the efforts and provide buy in from the management level.

As a result, the program has proven that significant water savings can be realized by setting a focus on system maintenance and immediate repair of known leaks. In addition, adjusting company policy to place an emphasis on leak repair and leak detection can play a huge role in water loss savings. For instance, in the three and a half years since this program began, NBU has recognized more than a 50% decrease in system water loss per day through its 455 miles of pipe. Also, the first steps of this program, which included repairing all existing water leaks, allowed NBU to surpass the initial water loss performance measures set in 2009. In addition, as of January 2012, NBU’s average system water loss is 4.1% of total pumped water, which is 0.8% better than AWWA’s top tier benchmark for large cities.

Not only has NBU’s creative solution to a relatively common problem illustrated significant water conservation, but also it has realized fiscal savings for the company and increased morale among the employees. Among water utilities, water leaks are common and so is the practice of contracting out to third parties to locate and fix them. By taking the time to research alternative solutions and using existing funding to create an in-house program, the need for continued future budgeting and investment into third party contractors is reduced, if not completely eliminated. Also, focusing on equipment upgrades and increased employee training has brought the water line technician out of the shadow of manual labor and into the realm of an exciting high-tech industry.

San Antonio Water System

The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) conservation strategy has three general approaches:   Education and Outreach, Reasonable Regulation and Financial Incentives.   SAWS utilizes a conservation rate structuring that has become an essential component of their financial incentives strategy, and one of the many ways of reducing water use in San Antonio.  SAWS have found that for them, a conservation rate structure is one of the cheapest and most effective methods to promote conservation.  The rate structures that SAWS has employed for over a decade demonstrate that it is possible to use aggressive conservation oriented rates while maintaining excellent bond ratings and positive community perceptions of water service and cost.

Every 5 years SAWS forms a special citizen advisory group, the Rate Advisory Council, and contracts a rate study consultant to review current water rates.  The formation of a Rate Advisory Council is a particularly important strategy in successful use of conservation oriented rates.  Consultants and staff may provide a lot of technical expertise, but only a citizen group representing all types of ratepayers can assess what is fair and reasonable.  The panel formed by SAWS for its latest rate restructuring met for nearly a year and worked hard at reviewing data, rate ideas and outcomes for various customer classes.  Their support in presenting a new rate structure to the SAWS Board of Trustees, to City Council and to fellow citizens was critical to the successful implementation of an even stronger conservation oriented rate structure than the one SAWS has had for many years. The new rate structure further rewards customers who conserve water with lower water bills while fairly charging those who demand larger amounts of water at a higher rate.  Since the passage of their conservation rate structure SAWS has continued to demonstrate leadership by presenting on the success of their program efforts at numerous State and national venues.