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Top 20 water users in Amarillo discuss conservation

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Amarillo, TX -- Our water use tends to rise and fall with temperatures, so as the weather warms up, the biggest consumers look for ways to curb their own use.

Amarillo uses about sixteen billion gallons of water a year, and sixteen percent of that is used by its ten heaviest consumers.  So those heavy users are comparing notes and asking for advice in minimizing their own consumption.

Earlier this afternoon (April 24), representatives from the top 20 water users in Amarillo met to discuss what efforts they can, have, or plan to take in the name of conservation. 

The City of Canyon, for example, is upgrading its own irrigation system and uses a tiered billing system that increases rates based on usage - the more you use, the more you pay.  And the VA Hospital is planning to move away from steam-powering its boilers.

Others in attendance included Xcel Energy, Northwest Texas Healthcare System, and Plains Dairy.

In 2012, the top three users in Amarillo were Tyson Foods, the Neal and Clements prison units, and the city itself.  And the Parks and Recreation Department uses the lion's share of the city's total.

"We have a lot of park land that gets watered," says Director of Utilities Emmett Autrey.  "We have a lot of buildings, facilities, and so on that have landscaping around them - the water plant itself has a lot of landscaping around it - a big reservoir in Southeast Park has 35 acres of landscaping we have to maintain over there."

Irrigation accounts for more than half of all municipal use, but the city is working to streamline its thirstiest department.

"Especially our park system has been putting in more efficient turf watering systems, turning over from Bermuda grass to fescue, and so on," says Autrey.

Making more use out of effluent water and switching to more drought-resistant grass were two of the main themes in today's meeting.  And according to the city's Public Works Department, switching the grass in your yard can cut your consumption by 25 percent.

Amarillo's daily goal is about 35 million gallons a day, about two million gallons less than what we're actually using.

If you'd like to see more detailed information about the city's water plan or the Texas Water Development Board's regional outlook, follow the links attached to this story.

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