AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas political, industrial, and environmental leaders congregated on the steps of the State Capitol to protest congressional efforts to repeal the water conservation provisions of the 1992 Energy Policy Act. The rally stemmed from Representative Joe Knollenberg's (R-MI) efforts to repeal the national efficiency standards for household plumbing fixtures, including faucets, showerheads and toilets, in the U.S. Congress.
"Representative Knollenberg has not considered the fiscal impact of repealing the water efficiency standards," said Mike Howe, Executive Director of the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. "If the standards are repealed, it will cost Texans billions of dollars to develop new water supplies. Is the federal government prepared to compensate Texans for this outlay?"
Texas passed its own plumbing efficiency standards in 1991, a year before Congress approved identical federal standards. "One of the driving forces for a federal standard was to ensure there would not be 50 different state standards," Howe noted. "That goal has been achieved. However, if the national standards are repealed, Texas' state standards would remain on the books and the cost of enforcement would skyrocket." Without federal standards, states could implement less efficient standards or remove water efficiency standards entirely. Surrounding states could therefore provide easy access to fixtures not in compliance with Texas standards. "Texas would have to hire dozens of inspectors to ensure that our standards are being followed," said Howe.
In Austin, which has replaced more than 45,000 toilets through incentive programs, indoor water use has been reduced by 20 percent in households using water-efficient toilets. Surveys have also found that 97 percent of Austin households using the new fixtures were either satisfied or very satisfied with the new models. San Antonio and El Paso, which have implemented similar incentive programs, have witnessed similar results in water efficiency and customer satisfaction.
According to the 1997 Texas Water Plan, the water saved by the new fixtures will provide two-thirds of the additional water Texas is projected to need by 2050. "Without these conservation savings, many parts of Texas will simply not be able to supply the water needed by a growing population and a growing economy," noted Howe. "That's why no organization in Texas supports the repeal of these standards."
Over 45 Texas organizations and the Western States Water Council oppose the repeal effort.
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