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New conservation measures under consideration

Monday, October 16, 2006 by

Just when you thought your 1.6-gallon-per-flush toilet was the state of the art in saving water, a new model comes along and shoves it aside. That was just some of the news presented to members of the city’s Water Conservation Task Force on Friday.

After more than a decade of providing incentives to water customers to install the low-flow toilet, a new 1.28 gallon-per-flush High-Efficiency Toilet, or HET, is hitting the market. That is included along with a number of other water–saving devices and plans the city may consider using to cut water use through conservation in the next few years.

The Water Conservation Task Force heard from city Water Conservation Manager Tony Gregg on indoor products that would help the city conserve water. The task force will hear a series of presentations, including landscape irrigation and utility strategies, over the next few months as it moves towards presenting the City Council with a policy document by early next year.

The task force, chaired by Council Member Lee Leffingwell, is charged with developing aggressive water conservation measures to meet the goal of reducing peak day usage by one percent per year for 10 years.

Gregg told the task force that despite the success in the 1990s and early 2000s in getting single family homes and others to switch to the 1.6-gallon low flow toilets, there still may be as many as 200,000 of the older large capacity toilets sill in use in older homes, apartments and business in the city.

“We still have a long way to go in getting the efficiency we need from toilets,” Gregg said. “One way we can change this is to require all homes to be brought up to code on the sale of the home. The seller would have to present a certificate of compliance at closing.”

He also said the city is considering whether multi-family dwellings would have to be brought up to code as utility accounts are transferred. People purchasing a home with the intention of remodeling could have the certificate of compliance transferred to the buyer in order to not have to replace the fixtures twice. Historic properties would be exempted in some circumstances.

Gregg said getting a significant number of low-flow or HET fixtures put in place would save the city between 2.2 million to 2.7 million gallons per day. He said the average ratepayer could save up to $184 a year on their utility bill.

Another way to save water is to cover more multi-family building with what is called sub-metering, Gregg said.

“Apartments generally use a lot more water than single family homes,” he said. “We believe that is because apartment dwellers don’t ever see a bill for the amount of water that they use, so they don’t think about it.”

Sub-metering would allow apartment or condo managers to more directly apportion water charges to individual units rather that dividing the total bill based on square footage and/or the number of people in the unit.

Under a new state law, the city began requiring new multi-family buildings to be plumbed for sub-metering, though a compromise in the legislation would not allow the city to mandate the use of sub-meters yet.

Other ideas discussed included stepped up use of low-flow shower devices, lower-flow car wash wands, and better cooling tower management in large commercial buildings.

The task force will continue to study indoor water-saving devices at a work session on Oct. 27.

Judges want jurisdiction to remain intact

County courts-at-law judges are recommending few changes to the state code that covers the jurisdiction of the current county court system, calling an overhaul of the current system “massive and impractical.”

A study of the statutory powers of county courts-at-law was intended to review the language under Chapter 25 of the Government Code to make sure that specific types of jurisdiction were “clear and concise,” according to Senate interim charges. Much of that focused on which courts should be handling what cases and whether all county courts-at-law should be handling family law cases, to enforce conformity.

The judges, led by Rusty Ladd of Lubbock County and Alfonso Charles of Gregg County, said “no.” Speaking before the Senate Jurisprudence Committee last week, the two said that some language should be standardized but that the division of labor was often a local option, best left to each jurisdiction.

In Lubbock County, for instance, under a gentleman’s agreement, two of the nine county courts have been set aside to handle the family law cases. In other counties, a particular judge has agreed to handle the majority of family law cases, Ladd said.

Family lawyers echoed the judges’ recommendation, which was somewhat unusual since the family law division of the State Bar has been all but absent from testifying before the Legislature. Attorney Sally Emerson of Amarillo apologized for the lack of participation on the part of the family bar and said that the lawyers would be more active on future legal issues.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Early (election) warning . . . Former Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas, who was attending a meeting at City Hall last week, told In Fact Daily he is planning to take another shot at winning the Mayor's seat in 2009. Thomas received only 15 percent of the vote to Mayor Will Wynn's 78 percent last spring but Thomas said next time he would start campaigning earlier and hire a political consultant. He said he knew that one of his opponents would be Council Member Brewster McCracken . . . Pool planning process on agenda . . . Council Member Sheryl Cole is sponsoring a resolution this week directing the City Manager to begin the process of creating a master plan for improvements to Barton Springs Pool. The city has already budgeted $500,000 to do the needed improvements. Cole said the process would include a lot of public input. Co-sponsors are Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley and Council Member Lee Leffingwell . . . Meetings . . . The Ethics Review Commission will meet at 6pm tonight to talk about its recommendations to the City Council for changes to conflict of interest provisions of City Code Chapter 2-7. Council Member Lee Leffingwell asked that the commission review conflict of interest rules to see if they need to be clarified . . . Other meetings . . . Saltillo District Redevelopment Project Community Advisory Group meets at 9:30am at the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp. at 1000 Lydia St. . . . The Urban Renewal Board meets at 6pm in the Street Jones Building . . . Texas Biggest Fan . . . North Texas electric utility TXU is bringing a massive wind turbine blade to town today as part of TXU Renew's statewide renewable energy education tour. The "Biggest Fan" is a 120-foot long, 14,000 pound wind blade from a Texas-based wind farm. Many wind turbines stand taller than the Statue of Liberty and can weigh as much as 40 elephants combined. The turbine will stop at the 100 block of East 18th St. (near the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum) and be on display from 7am-7pm. The tour is designed to educate the general public on the benefits of renewable energy for the Texas environment. . . . East Austin Economic Summit . . . The East Austin Economic Summit is an annual event focused on Central East Austin's rapidly evolving economy. It provides a formal presentation on East Austin's economic outlook, development initiatives and business opportunities. At the same time, the community has the opportunity to voice its concerns, highlight opportunities and devise collaborative action plans that capitalize on economic opportunities and address community concerns. The goals of the Summit are: to provide an update on the economic outlook of and development initiatives in East Austin; to establish an effective channel of communication for East Austin business owners to voice their concerns and collaborate to take action; and to enhance East Austin businesses' ability to benefit from increased investment in the area while mitigating the side effects of rapid growth. The summit is set for the 8:30am on Saturday at the ACC Eastview Campus. For more information, contact Lydia Ortiz at 472-8087, or email . . . Look what came in the email! . . . Perhaps you too were fortunate enough to get an email invite this weekend to join the John Cornyn for President group on Yahoo! Our invitation read: "Enough with Rep. Foley and other phony RINOs! We must insist upon only candidates who reflect the finest qualities of the Republican Party. NOW is the time to begin working on electing the best person in America for our nation's highest office, SEN. JOHN CORNYN, in 2008! Let's get this Party started! The grass-roots movement begins with YOU!" Best we can tell, it's an invitation-only group. Watch this space for any future missives from the campaign.

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