Zero water, water zero : water neutral development in Texas and California
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“Water neutral” is one of the many phrases used to describe a building, development, neighborhood or even region whose “water footprint”—the amount of water it consumes—is no greater than the water it conserves. The concept is a natural successor of “carbon neutral” and “carbon footprint,” which are in turn successors of “ecological footprint.” Most water-neutral projects in the United States are in California, where a combination of environmental regulation, culture of environmentalism and extreme drought has made it possible to explore water management policies that might have once seemed extreme. Given the similar size, similar climate variability, similarly strong economies and population pressures, in addition to the regular occurrence of drought, California is a good place to look for potential solutions to water management issues in Texas. But given political and cultural differences, implementing those policies in Texas will have a number of significant challenges. This paper will review the history and culture of water management in each state, followed by the circumstances under which water offset policies were developed in California, and the circumstances in Texas that may preclude similar policies. Finally, it will make two policy suggestions for water neutral development in Texas, one voluntary and one mandatory, and consider the benefits and drawbacks of both.