Dr. Dan Lineberger,
Professor and Extension Specialist
Despite the tremendous impact of the industry, there is no existing body of knowledge regarding how growers use water in their operations and the quantities used. The single nursery grower in the TWDB Water Use Survey, categorized by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) as a Class 4 nursery (more than 20 acres of growing area), has a combined municipal and self-supplied groundwater use average of 2,600 acre-feet per year (TWDB Staff). The TDA lists 237 Class-4 nurseries and 75 Class-3 nursery operations (greater than 10 acres but less than 20). It is unknown whether 2,600 acre-feet of annual usage is representative of the average grower.
Few regional guides or conservation outreach efforts exist for nursery/floral growers. In addition, there is information regarding how many currently use the Best Management Practices as laid out in the Water Conservation Best Management Practices Guide (TWDB Report 362). In order to benchmark existing conservation efforts and the potential for conservation savings, this body of knowledge is essential.
Due to the lack of water use data and conservation practices information, it is difficult to estimate the potential savings from conservation. However, if the average water use for Class 4 nurseries is assumed to be one half of the surveyed nursery (1,300 acre-feet) and one quarter of the amount for class 3 nurseries (650 acre-feet), then potential for savings through the adoption of conservation techniques is estimated to be about 35,685 acre-feet per year based on a 10% savings (237 times 1,300 acre-feet and 75 times 650 acre-feet equals 356,850 acre-feet).
In the 2002 State Water Plan, irrigation water conservation strategies are planned for 60 counties, for a total of 669,447 acre-feet of savings in the year 2010 and 866,981 acre-feet of savings in 2050. Eleven counties in the state have 6 or more Class 4 nurseries; of these 11 counties, eight have irrigation water conservation strategies in the 2002 Plan to meet unmet needs. Conservation savings from nursery growers in these counties, and others, could be part of the broad conservation strategies to offset any unmet needs.