COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is strengthening its challenge to Texans to save millions of gallons of water annually as well as money on their monthly water bills.
The 40 Gallon Challenge is a program that calls on residents and businesses to reduce their average water use by 40 gallons per day, according to Dr. Diane Boellstorff, AgriLife Extension water resources specialist in College Station.
Boellstorff became involved in the voluntary national program in 2011, serving as the Texas representative.
After one year, she and AgriLife Extension economist Dean McCorkle in College Station completed an economic impact study in November, which showed that Texas participants, based on average municipal rates, were saving an estimated $299,000 a year, in addition to the water savings.
“At the time that we did the impact statement, we were able to count 80 programs from 89 counties, and participation continues to increase,” she said. “For example, the impact statement mentions 1,050 participating households saving 71 million gallons of water annually, but today’s numbers are 1,152 participating households saving 80 million gallons annually.”
That change has come in only three months. Boellstorff said many AgriLife Extension agents are beginning to deliver the program in their local counties. She is also making presentations to spread the program across the state.
This water resource conservation tool is one of many programs initiated and supported through the Southern Region Water Resource Project, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Dr. Mark McFarland, AgriLife Extension state soil fertility specialist in College Station, is the project director.
The 40-Gallon Challenge allows Texans to compete against other Americans who are taking the challenge in their states. At the program’s website, www.40gallonchallenge.org, Texans can pledge to adopt water-saving practices and see how many gallons of water they can expect to save.
The website also shows the most popular practices being pledged, the practices that are saving the most water daily, and counties and states that are pledging the most daily savings, Boellstorff said.
Currently, the top water savers in Texas are “reduce irrigation station runtimes by two minutes,” “use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks,” and “fix a leaky toilet.” In Texas, the three counties registered to save the most gallons are Collin, Ellis and Dallas.
Boellstorff credited the higher rate of participation in these areas to work done by Susan Ballabina, AgriLife Extension regional program director for family and consumer sciences, and Clint Wolfe, urban water program manager at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas.
To start saving water and take the challenge, go to the website and complete the checklist of water-saving practices, Boellstorff said. The checklist includes both indoor and outdoor water-saving tips.