Lawmakers Are Taking the Battle Over Texas' Water Supply to Your Front Lawn

Water -- or the lack thereof -- has already made it to the top of the state Legislature's priority list, and it's an area of rare bipartisan agreement. After all, it doesn't take a hydrological engineer to figure out that growing population plus soon-to-be-maxed-out water sources plus historic drought equals an uncomfortably thirsty future.

So far, the most discussed proposals have revolved around securing future supplies. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst proposed dipping into the state's rainy day fund for $1 billion to pay for water supply projects. Lawmakers doubled down on his proposal, suggesting that $2 billion would be the proper amount.

Still, there hadn't been much talk about conservation, partly because that's something easier taken up by local governments and partly because this is Texas.

But state Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is looking to change that. Yesterday, he filed SB 198, which would bar homeowners associations, many of which have rules mandating green lawns, from penalizing members for using "drought-resistant landscaping or water-conserving turf." Such things happen.

Watson explained the measure, as well as a companion aimed at reducing water consumption at electric power plants, in a statement to StateImpact Texas.

"These two bills are just the start of what I hope to be a session full of progress as we evaluate our water supply and our future -- and as we look for ways to help Texans do better when it comes to paying for, planning for, prioritizing, and conserving our increasingly scarce and always essential water resources," he said.

In the context of the state's looming water woes, Watson's bill is infinitesimally small, but it does nudge the issue of conservation into the discussion, and it does so by flipping the traditional argument against watering restrictions -- the "This is my property, and I'll turn it into a lake if I damn well please" line of thought -- on its head.

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