03.15.12Alan Harris

Water is Not an Option

water is not an optionWhere will your children or grandchildren swim in 5, 10, 20 years?

Did you read Martha’s post about Tweetups? Did you think she was a little crazy? Did you say to yourself, Yeah, right! Who would actually do something like a Tweetup? Ummm….ME!

In the fall of 2011 I had the honor of listening to Laura Huffman, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy of Texas speak at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. The topic of her conversation was “Water Is Not An Option: Texas’ Broken Promise to Future Generations.”

Beside the very interesting topic and phenomenal presentation by Ms. Huffman, three things made this event unique…at least for me.

  1. I learned about the event because I follow @waterca on Twitter who tweeted about the upcoming presentation
  2. I was in Georgia watching the presentation being broadcast live over the Internet.
  3. I live tweeted the event, which is no easy task! We are talking about 1 Tweet every 90 seconds without spell check!

Several of the Tweets were in turn re-Tweeted by my followers to their followers, so while there were a few hundred people in the room listening live and others were on the web, the messages were being broadcast to thousands of followers on Twitter through the magical process known as Amplification.

Below are my Tweets from the presentation (with a few minor corrections for spelling). I invite you to read them, re-Tweet them or if you prefer you can watch the 45 minute presentation on your computer.

For those who are not familiar with Twitter @ is how you find/follow a person and a hast tag # is how you follow a topic or conversation. Most of the hashtags were removed from the post so if you do re-Tweet feel free to add them back. (i.e. #drought. #water, #desal, etc)

  • Getting ready to tweet > Nature Conservancy TX talks critical need for sustainable & funded water conservation plan
  • Listening to @nature_org TX Dir @LauraJHuffman speak on water in TX @RiceUniversity Wish there was a hash tag
  • 97% of water is salty, 2-½ % is ice, ½ % is what sustains life. Amount of water is constant. Population is growing.
  • Population growth is draining rivers faster than nature can replenish for 1.4B people who live in or near river basins
  • 16 Communities in TX have less than 6 month water supply
  • 50 years ago TX has worst drought on record. Lots of $$$ invested and improvements made, but we are now at the end of those improvements
  • TX population 50 years ago was 10M. Much larger today [25M] and growing faster. Rain can’t fix the water problem
  • 1 – Must manage water resources better 2 – drive water use down 3 – protect water quality
  • TX has a state water plan. Region based plans for the next 50 years. Cost to implement $53B up from $31B last year
  • 23% of future water supply is from conservation (not new sources). Water plan is not funded in TX.
  • Loan & grant programs currently exist in TX for water programs, but not the plan. @Nature_Org recommends using these funds to align w/ plan
  • If TX doesn’t get started now, future generations will not have water
  • Best way to get started is to eliminate water waste. Water systems are up to 30% inefficient.
  • Water is for food, energy and drinking. All systems must work together to ensure each has water in the future.
  • Technology exists to measure soil moisture to better determine when irrigation is required. Old Ag systems need to upgrade. Use State incentives
  • Energy – most types need some to a lot of water. Lots of energy is needed to treat and distribute water. Must have Energy plan for TX.
  • Energy Plan – needs to incorporate cost, reliability, impact on air, land and water
  • 50% of water in TX in 50 years will be for city living. Need to incorporate gray water and reclaimed water
  • Water Conservation needs to be a way of life. Big Corporate commitments – Coca Cola, Levi Straus, Hershey…
  • Protect quality of water – important to bio-diversity. Dirty water costs more to treat
  • To protect water quality must protect land. Water Protection Funds on ballots to invest in protection of aquifer land by conservation…
  • Gulf of Mexico is 14th largest economy in the world. Important to protect water quality going into the Gulf.
  • 2011 drought & fires were a good vision of what might be in store if nothing is done to implement water plan. $2.5B in loss in Ag alone.
  • Climatologist say 2011 might soon be the norm for TX drought and heat. Also means other areas will have more flooding
  • Q: for @LauraJHuffman speaking @RiceUniversity RE: desal A: very expensive especially when you start thinking about moving water inland
  • Price of water is priced for treatment, but not the resource (like air). Hey, I think she just agreed water is free!
  • We have 30% waste because it is cheaper to waste water than it is to fix the leaks per @LauraJHuffman @Nature_Org
  • Low river flows & lack of fresh water in Gulf destroys oyster beds. @Nature_Org has plans to fix beds, but have put on hold due to low flow
  • Hmm> RE: bottle water – all beverages require water so why only go after bottled water?
  • Bottled water companies are innovators and NOT in competition with city water. Bottled water is a luxury per @LauraJHuffman
  • Desal currently in use in El Paso and Corpus Christi. More will probably be used in the future especially in coastal communities
  • Edwards Aquifer – only source for San Antonio. Fills up quickly, but everything washes into it. SA focuses on water quality going into it

During the question and answer session two people asked about the “real” problem…population growth. One person alluded to keeping people out of Texas while the last question of the evening alluded to China’s limitation of one child per couple. In his defense he did preface it with, “I don’t mean to…” However, when people start out with, “I don’t mean to” it usually is exactly what they mean. (i.e. “I don’t mean to interrupt you”, but in reality it is exactly what you did mean to do AND you did it!) Both of these made me think of the book, movie and TV series from the 70’s called Logan’s Run, but that is a blog for another day…unless Kelly Duke beats me to it!

If you liked this post, please share it with a friend, leave a comment, check out my previous posts and follow me on Twitter @h2oMatters.
P.S. I was so impressed with the presentation and realistic approach, I asked Santa Claus for a Nature Conservancy Membership. Unfortunately, I sent my letter to Santa via snail mail which was delayed so I bought a membership for myself.

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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine and speaker at WaterSmart Innovations Conference.




  1. […] dismissed it as a bit “preachy” until I read Alan Harris’ recent piece about re-tweeting the Laura Huffman lectures at Rice University.  I am not yet tweet-savvy so my interest was in Ms. Huffman’s topic and not on the efficacy of […]

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