A great dilemma exists as to proper management of the area's limited groundwater supply to serve the needs of western Hays County's existing development and anticipated new growth. Because we all live, work, and play in this beautiful part of the Texas Hill Country and want to continue to enjoy the lifestyle that exists today, we must find strategies that reduce our water problems. First we must recognize that we live on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert and arid conditions are now the norm. In many urban areas 70% of the water consumption is used for outside irrigation. In the Hill Country we must strictly limit water used for outside landscape irrigation, decorative ponds, recreational lakes, and swimming pools. Landscape plans for Hill Country residences and commercial development should use xeriscape design and drought tolerant plant materials. New low-water-use grasses have been developed and are successful in the Hill Country. For homes with adequate roof area, rainwater collection with properly sized storage tanks will provide a reliable and pure source of water for residential use. State and local governments should encourage/require installation of rainwater collection systems on all new home construction. Incentives are needed to convert existing homes to rainwater. Public education programs should be started to show people the great advantages of rainwater. Current State law limits the ability of large buildings to use rainwater as a water supply for the building by requiring very expensive treatment and testing processes, much higher than well water supply. State law should be changed to allow/encourage rainwater use for commercial applications and make it more attractive than using well water.
Large buildings (schools, grocery stores, warehouses, etc) within the Hill Country generate huge quantities of rainwater runoff which, if captured and stored, could be used as a supplement to the groundwater used by local water supply companies without big expensive pipelines. Development regulations within area cities and Hays County should recognize that water availability will be the limiting factor for the future and set regulations accordingly. New subdivisions can be built with planning that limits ground area coverage and preserves open space to allow aquifer recharge. Homes should be built with rainwater collection as the water supply source, not well water. Highly treated wastewater can be used for landscape irrigation.Land owners with larger tracts can dedicate conservation easements to preserve open space, protect endangered species, and enhance aquifer recharge while the owner enjoys a tax benefit.