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Water-saving efforts critical for state

It hasn’t been that long since most Texans took their water supply for granted — an occasional dry year would bring voluntary restrictions, but not much more.

That began to change several years ago. Conserving water has become a priority in Texas because some believe that current resources won’t be enough to sustain our rapidly expanding population.

Denton County’s population, for example, is expected to triple in the next five decades, and the county’s demands for water will more than double.

Texas Water Development Board officials estimate the state will use an additional 330 billion gallons of water by 2020 and 1.2 trillion gallons by 2060.

Ongoing drought or near-drought conditions aren’t helping. According to state researchers and legislative reports, Texas experienced an “unprecedented drought” in 2010 and 2011 that devastated the state.

More than 1,000 public water systems across Texas have enacted some form of water restrictions. At least 20 water systems have less than a year’s supply of water and are in danger of running dry, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reports.

State and local officials said they hope that enacting water restrictions, informing residents about water-saving fixtures and promoting conservation will encourage people to assist with efforts to limit water usage.

Such efforts are critical if our state is to continue to grow and thrive, but there is another way to save water that must not be neglected.

Thousands of water and sewer line connections stretch for miles underneath Denton County and its cities and each day, millions of gallons of drinking water are pumped through this complex network to be delivered to area residents.

But sometimes water intended for consumption doesn’t make it to its destination — escaping through uncharted cracks in the maze.

State data from 2010 show that Denton County public water suppliers report losing a combined 1.6 billion gallons, or 7.5 percent, of their drinking water and wastewater annually through line breaks, leaks and other factors. The data comes from public water audits of 25 suppliers in the county, collected by the Texas Water Development Board.

Because most water suppliers — including the city of Denton — purchase their water from other sources, the water loss results in millions of taxpayer dollars lost each year.

Some could argue that the amount of water lost annually doesn’t seem that significant, and we might agree — if the state population boom, falling water levels in area lakes and ongoing lack of rain didn’t make every drop so precious.

And consider this: If all of the water lost through system deficiencies were collected across the state and turned into a lake, it would be the 16th largest lake in Texas, according to the water development board.

Out of the 44 municipalities in Denton County, a third report using more than a billion gallons of water a year. The amount of water the county loses each year is enough to supply at least a dozen of the county’s smallest municipalities.

Area cities and towns have invested several million dollars in the repair and replacement of water and sewer lines, but water development board reports indicate that more is needed.

We encourage area cities to waste no more time in checking systems and repairing unseen breaks that are siphoning off our area’s lifeblood.

The time has come to explore all options for securing a water supply that is adequate to support our state’s growth well into the future, and aging water pipeline systems can no longer be ignored.

Residents will do their part to conserve, but we cannot afford to have so much precious water lost before it reaches their taps.