Despite the downpour Austin received last night, the Austin Water Utility knows that it will last only so long. So, they're trying out any new idea that comes to them in order to preserve.
Under current conservation rules, commercial watering regulations require a once-per-week watering schedule, but otherwise allow the water to flow as much as it can during that one week period. This causes automatic sprinkler systems to run on rainy days, and it's not necessarily ideal for the businesses, either. The Statesman reported on a different approach:
Under a pilot program the Austin Water Utility is starting, perhaps a few dozen apartment complexes and large commercial properties will be allowed to water when they like. But those businesses will have to stick to a monthly water limit.
The details are to be worked out over the next few weeks, chief among them being how much water each property can use.
But the basic point is to change the watering question from “when” to “how much.” If it works – there are technical and practical hurdles to clear – the city could expand the program in a couple of years.
“The idea is not to ease up on our conservation efforts, but to see if this can help save even more,” said Daryl Slusher, an assistant director for the Austin Water Utility. “We don't have a clear idea how much this will save; that's why we want to test it out first.”
The idea for such a program has been around for several years and was part of a smorgasbord of proposals in a water conservation plan adopted by the city in 2009.
There's no telling if this will work, especially because the budget has yet to be set. A key component to keep the eye on, if all statistics are made available, is how the budget allowance would compare to what has been used in the current system.
This is all just part of the Austin Water Conservation Plan (which can be found here), but Austin should be applauded for following through on innovation. With the water troubles that we've had for the past few years — we need to try everything.