Close to the Gulf of Mexico and drained by a series of bayous that flow into Galveston Bay, the Houston region is intimately familiar with water. Perhaps a little too intimately — we are gaining a reputation as “America’s flood capital” thanks to the torrential rain events that routinely shut down highways and streets and inundate hundreds, if not thousands, of homes.

The Houston area receives almost 50 inches of rain per year — a total that leaves many dry-land Texans feeling a bit envious. However, you’d never know we had such an abundance of water when you look at how much we use on our landscapes and yards. While the percentage of water we use on our landscapes is less than cities in drier parts of the state, Houston water customers alone use 5 billion gallons of water per year for outdoor purposes.

Despite our bounty of water, the time has come to get serious about conservation. Why wait for another drought to protect our most precious resource?

To help with water conservation at the local level, The Galveston Bay Foundation has created the Water Wise Bay Cities Challenge, a friendly water conservation competition for 20 Bay Area cities and their residents. Area residents now have the chance to take a water conservation pledge on behalf of their cities. The challenge is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for residents to not only help conserve our future water supplies, but also help preserve the health of Galveston Bay.

Residents have until May 10 to make their conservation pledges at www.gbwb.org. Winning cities and residents will be announced at Galveston Bay Foundation’s Bay Day Festival on May 13 at the Kemah Boardwalk.

This effort stems from the fact that historically, much of our region has depended on groundwater that is pumped from wells — groundwater overuse contributes to land subsidence, which leaves us even more vulnerable to flooding and tropical storms.

To alleviate this problem, water utilities throughout the area have been gradually working to transition the source of water supplies from groundwater to surface water. This means that more freshwater will be diverted from the San Jacinto and Trinity rivers — the two main rivers that flow into Galveston Bay. As a result, the bay will gradually receive less of the freshwater it needs to maintain its productivity. To prevent this, we need to conserve our water resources now so that we can ensure that there will be enough to go around in the future.

Conserving water can also help guarantee that the oysters, fish and other wildlife that call the bay home will thrive. Using less water will help to dilute pollution and ensure that Galveston Bay remains one of the most productive bay-systems in the world.

Let’s help the bay stay healthy and productive for many generations to come. Every pledge counts! Visit www.gbwb.org to pledge for your bay and get entered in a drawing to win a prize.

Paula Paciorek is the water resources coordinator, and Bob Stokes is the president, of the Galveston Bay Foundation.

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