Send colleagues to Energy Smart Austin


Austin, Texas, is a leader in the United States on paths toward a more energy smart future.  MSN called it the “Greenest City in America.”  IT has smart growth policies, has a focus on plug-in vehicles, wind power, and … well, many things.  

Yearly Kos 1 was in a center of conspicious consumption: Las Vegas. YK2 in a leading city when it comes to green roofs which had the Cool GlobesCool Globes up when we were there.  Netroots Nation is going to an even greener pasture.  And you can send a friend there through the DFA Scholarship for Netroots Nation.

Chances are, you’ve already heard a word or two about the Netroots Nation Scholarship Program, from McJoan, SallyCat, DelawareDem, Land of Enchantment, LithiumCola, NoWeasels, and Meteor Blades.

Last year, Kid Oakland made an appeal and made the effort to raise funds to bring state and local bloggers to Chicago.  Paul is amazing, on so many levels, from his core decency to his eloquent and passionate writing.  And, he understood the 50-state strategy. He understood the reality that not all could afford that ticket to Chicago and the hotel room.  He understood … and he appealed … and worked … and made something happen.

Democracy for America has picked up the mantle. While KO raised enough funds to get 19 bloggers to Chicago, DFA so far has the funds for 20 bloggers to get to Texas.  Here is yet another appeal for you, for all of us, to kick in something to the DFA Scholarship for Netroots Nation to bump that number up.

Austin is Energy Smart by being Water Smart

In the month coming, I hope to write several discussions looking at Austin through an Energy Smart lens.  In this case, let us take a look at Austin’s water programs and the efforts to foster greater efficiency in the use of water.

Austin is under pressure when it comes to water. With a population doubling every few decades, growing industry, and with a water supply reliant on sharing out the already over-taxed Colorado River.  Austin has an allocation within the river flow, for which it prepays.  If it exceeds that limit (200,000 acre-feet-per-year) for two-years running, it will have a huge back bill, with a requirement to pay far higher rates for all water above 150,000 acre-feet-per-year. Right now Austin uses 170,000. Going above 200,000 could mean a bill of $8-13 million.

For 25 years, Austin has had a water conservation program. There are seasonal restrictions to limit water use in dry conditions.  Austin was an early adopter of low-flow toilets and helped customers replace old toilets with the more efficient ones.

About a third of Austin’s water use is commercial, industrial, and institutional.  Austin is tackling paths, in partnership with businesses, to help foster water efficiency. Austin will help businesses design and develop water saving approaches, measure the effectiveness, and help pay for the project (starting at $1 per gallon saved, with a decreasing level, up to a total of $40,000 for a 50,000 gallons/day in savings).  When combined with savings in sewage fees, this can mean that water saving programs can be paid off in less than a year for the private business.

What sort of projects have occurred?

* Freescale Inc, a semi conducter manufacturer, is recycling water in its manufacturing processes and using post cycle water in its cooling tower.   

“The savings can be significant. If you’ve got an operation using upwards of 400 gallons per minute, along with the wastewater fees associated with disposal, you can easily start saving tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a year.”

* Habitat Suites has moved from having water hog landscaping to drought resistant permaculture-landscaping.  They’ve put in low-flow shower heads and other water saving devices. On their three-cycle washing machines (20 gallons/cycle), they are now recyling final rinse water for the first load of the next wash, cutting water use by one-third.   

“the long-term payoff of the recycle kit more impressive still. “That’s saving on every load for the rest of our lives, so, that’s pretty cool.” Further, she says the recycle kit can be retrofitted to work with just about any commercial washing machine. “You don’t have to wait to do the right thing; you can just start doing it right now.””

The program really is a partnership, but a partnership with both government assistance and oversight. The Austin city monitors water savings to ensure that the efforts achieve the expected (and paid for) savings.

The Austin Water Conservation program is impressive.  Free toilets, assistance for putting in more efficient coin-operated washing machines, assistance for irrigation audits, etc …

What does Austin gain?  

There is also a direct benefit to Austin’s Water Utility. According to Dan Strub, Water Conservation Program Coordinator for the city, for years Austin has wrestled with the prospect of adding new drinking water treatment capacity. “One of our tasks is to decrease the rate of increase in the demand for water, so we can put off the need for a new water treatment plant as long as possible.” Though he concedes that, in the face of continued growth, the new plant will likely prove inevitable, he says, “The longer we can put it off, the more money we save.”

To date, the efficiency program is credited with saving over 2.3 million gallons of water per day.

Water = Energy

We often don’t think of it in this way, but water is a highly energy intensive product in our daily lives.  

As of about a year ago, the provision of water and wastewater services was about 19 percent of the total electricity demand in California.  Reduced and more efficient water use can have a quite direct impact on energy use and on CO2 emissions.  

We have interrelated energy, water, and global warming challenges. Making the wrong choices or taking poor steps in one will often adversely affect the others. Taking Water Smart steps will often translate, quite directly, into Energy Smart.

Thus, Energy Smart Austin is also Water Smart, which is meaningful as we seek a path toward  prosperous, climate-friendly society.

You too can help …

By sending a friend, a colleague, a fellow-blogger to see Energy Smart and Water Smart Austin through the DFA Scholarship for Netroots Nation.


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